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Flat Panel Linux Box for $99? 480

A reader writes "Found an interesting site which describes a hack to modify the $99 Iopener internet appliance to be able to run Linux. Flat panel LCD display, small footprint, 56K (non-win)modem. No ethernet, but a built-in parallel port (for PLIP?). Just add 2.5" HD. The perfect X terminal! "
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Flat Panel Linux Box for $99?

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  • But will it run text mode quake?
  • What's the resolution of those things? 640x480? I know plenty an X dialog box that can't fit in 800x600, never mind anything less.

    Still nifty, though.
  • Perfect - both a hardware hack, and a cool operating system. Why would any user want to run the proprietary OS it comes with?
  • X over a parallel port? ick
  • According to the page, it's 800x600x16.
  • ... they just installed Linux on a hard drive and plugged it into the IDE port graciously provided on the I-Opener's main board.

    Not groundbreaking, but interesting nonetheless.
  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:30AM (#1209876) Homepage
    I always wondered about that... I better go check it out before they realize that their loss-leader price is gonna get 'em screwed. If people aren't buying them to use their service, things might not work out too well for their business...


  • I agree. A 10" screen is a bit small for my taste. It would make for a nice remote terminal for doing e-mail and such though.

    My university has a bunch of "kiosks" all over that are basically just a dinky monitor, a keyboard, and a trackball. All you can do with them is e-mail and web browsing. But I'll bet they cost a lot more than these Iopener things.
  • Mainly, it needs an ethernet port.
  • by niekze ( 96793 )
    Looking at the site, i see the modem is some plug on thing. Could someone find a way to use an ethernet card with it? If that were the case, I'd buy one today.
  • suppose you put a touch-screen keyboard overlay on this thing. Further suppose that you add a DC power supply (battery :) Portable Linux webpad! and it would play Quake! for $99!
  • It has a USB port so you can buy a USB Ethernet adapter.
  • USB to Ethernet solution? Maybe need some kernel hacking :))
  • by Datafage ( 75835 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:34AM (#1209884) Homepage
    I think the craze over putting Linux on anything with a processor is getting ridiculous. Is it really all that horrible to use an item for what it was intended? I mean Christ, I don't see Linux on my digital watch, why doesn't someone fix that? It must be because Casio is conspiring to make it impossible! Open source digital watches!


  • I love when I hear about people hacking equipment like this. A very good use of creative energies.
  • The worst that would happen is they sell more units. Let's face it, without a hack like this, 99.99% of the Slashdot crowd will never buy one. Blame it on QNX, proprietary ISP, dialup, etc. But now, this opens up a nice niche market. Their target is obviously the ol' computer novice who doesn't know what DSL/Cable modems are, and just want to get on and email their grandchildren. This seems like a very nice product for only $99 for these sorts of people. I don't see installing Linux undercutting them that much.

    Now if someone manages to remove that modem card and install an ethernet, that could start hurting them. :)
  • by Docrates ( 148350 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:39AM (#1209892) Homepage
    Oh C'mon people, give him credit, he did a nice job so stop understating the hack. sure it was easy, but that IS the beauty of it. just because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it, doesn't mean the you rocket scientists out there should say it's a piece of crap!

    after all, it's the creativity and inventive that counts.
  • by srhuston ( 161786 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:39AM (#1209893) Homepage Journal
    So... install *BSD. Or OS/2. Or Windows. If you noted, there's nothing saying this only works for Linux.. you could even install x86 Solaris if you were so inclined. :> And yeah, so it might be just putting a hard drive on the motherboard as someone else mentioned, but it still took this person(s) time to figure out that the plug was mirrored I'm sure. It's still a hack (and one that I might be looking in to soon)
  • Well, in this case, I think it makes perfect sense. Here you have a lightweight, small, flat panel, quiet machine for $99. Can you think of any good reasons to NOT put linux on it?


  • by _Mustang ( 96904 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:43AM (#1209897)
    online services? The article mentions that it is a custom dial-up but makes no mention if it's the hardware that's been customized or if it's simply that they don't support other connections in the software. I suppose for the price I can assume it software-braindead but if it's not a winmodem and it IS on COM1..
    I would question the need for Linux on a device that is limited to 640x480 (no - it doesn't make sense to put Linux on everything, just most everything) not to mention just how useful it would be in everyday life in as limited a manner as it currently exists. Though- on the positive side I can see application where this would be very useful. At $99 bucks it would be the cheapest "smart-typewriter" ever and the added advantage of being able to do not only typing but spreadsheet work and presentations might make it a very useful tool for some administrative staff...
  • >I think the craze over putting Linux on anything with a processor is getting ridiculous
    Why, I think it is seriously cool.

    Is it really all that horrible to use an item for what it was intended?
    No, but it is fun.

    I don't see Linux on my digital watch, why doesn't someone fix that?
    Oh, man, THAT would be COOL as shit!!!!

  • by victim ( 30647 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:44AM (#1209900)
    I purchased one of these for my wife's grandmother. Nice easy to use platform, does e-mail well and surfs. Javascript, no java, no PNG. Does fine on slashdot, CNN, etc...

    Its a slick little box as is. The pointing device is not suitable for arthritic fingers, but they can take an PS/2 pointer as well.

    The LCD is VERY sensitive to viewing angle, but if you only have one head on your neck that shouldn't be too bad. Its also very susceptible to ducking. Moving items vanish.

    Their original plan was to sell them for $400 with a $5/mo ISP service. That didn't fly so they flipped to $200 and a $20/mo ISP at their xmas time introduction.

    Now at $99 for a linux terminal I'm really excited. I feel a bit bad, since they are probably losing money at $99 and won't be making it up on the ISP service. Not bad enough to refrain from buying a couple though. :-)
  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:44AM (#1209901) Homepage
    The $99 has GOT to be losing them money, but they're counting on their $20 a month for the service, or whatever. Linux users are gonna plunk down $99, say thanks, and never look back.... Selling units at $99 can't possibly make them any money.


  • Geez man, look at the site you at, Slashdot, News for Nerds! Of all those posts where people complain about non-nerd news this is one piece of news that is nerdy! This is really interesting stuff. If you're getting tired of linux maybe you shouldn't come to slashdot, interesting thought...

    Billy Transue
  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:46AM (#1209907) Homepage
    I know that alot of people here think the EULAs are junk, but in reality some of them are legitimate. Although I think this is very cool, isn't this a blatant misuse of their device. I assume that there is somewhere where they say you can't disassemble them, and in this case, where they are selling them at a loss, they have a legitimate reason to request this.
    On a second note, what are the terms of their contract. Assuming you are buying the product, and not just on an indefinate lease, how long are you required to use their internet service before terminating the contract?
  • by borzwazie ( 101172 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:47AM (#1209908) Homepage
    I just called their customer service line. The operator was a bit confused when I asked her if I could order the appliance without the ISP service, but assured me that I could cancel it at any time. So, you don't need to subscribe to their service. Woohoo!
  • by JDax ( 148242 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:48AM (#1209911)
    There is an ethernet card that is supported by Linux that attaches to a parallel port. &nbsp It's pretty steep in price (around US$100+) though. &nbsp One of my buddies was considering buying it since his old XIRCOM parallel port wasn't supported.

    Can't think of the name of it off hand but will look it up in a hurry unless someone already knows it and posts...

  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:51AM (#1209916) Homepage
    From the Linux USB Guide []:

    Prolific manufactures a range of USB chips, including the PL2301 and PL2302 devices that allow two USB host controllers to be linked, providing a simple point to point link at up to 5Mbps. This driver supports both PL2301 andPL2302 chips.


  • by HalJohnson ( 86701 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @08:54AM (#1209920) Homepage
    Although this isn't it, someone needs to mass produce a simple (cheap!) box with a nice flat panel screen, minimal cpu/mb, and most importantly, an ethernet port (100BT would be nice). If someone could design and mass produce something like this for under, say $200 US, they'd make a killing. I know I would personally buy a bunch of them. And no, Sun's sun ray doesn't fit the bill, afaik it requires a Sun server, which will make it rather costly.

    I love PC's, and something like this would really be the perfect complement. Why settle for an information appliance hard coded to do one particular thing, when you can a bunch of sleek little x-terminals that can do anything a stand-alone appliance does?

    I can think of plenty of uses for something like this around the house, in a business setting, the uses multiply.

    So if anyone with the means is listening, build them! The market for appliances of this type will fail until they're cheap enough ($200 would be my price point, can I reiterate that enough?), and as long as they're tied to proprietary systems. Who else would buy a generic, sleek, flat paneled x-term for $200?

  • Just tell them it's a gift and won't be in use for another month or two. You'll sign up with ISP service at that time. I'd imagine this would be a relatively common request... *shrug*.
  • Ship it to me, then drive down and get it, presuming you live in Ottawa, Montreal, or anywhere in-between.
  • by Ineversaidthat ( 38835 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:18AM (#1209943)
    ...they're IPO'ing next week?
  • I doubt it applies.
    The physical world and software EULA's are a world apart.
    When you buy something, at circuit city, for example, you exchange cash for the object. The implied contract is that you now OWN the object, outright and completely. You can do *whatever* you want with it. This may be a grey area when it comes to the software supplied on the device, but it's very clearn with the device itself.
    That is true if the purchase is cash-and-carry. If the purchase is like those 'free' or $1 cellphones, where you also must sign a contract, it's different. Then you are signing a legal document, requiring you to abide by it's terms.

    The bottom line is, when you purchase something, you can do anything you like with it.
  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:23AM (#1209949) Homepage

    I was on the point of buying one of these, but while I was thinking about it and taking a shower I came up with a progression in mind...

    1. Some geek buys one of these devices
    2. That geek hacks the hardware and figures out how to install Linux on the machine
    3. The geek shares his knowledge of how to do it with others over the internet
    4. Someone submits the site to Slashdot's editors and it gets posted on the main page
    5. Slashdot readers see the story and see that they can get a cool Linux box for $99
    6. Slashdot users int the thousands go out and buy this device
    7. The company sells thousands of these devices at a loss
    8. The company assumes they will recover this loss when these thousands of people start paying for their internet service
    9. These users don't sign up for the internet service and the company doesn't make their money back
    10. The company goes belly-up, blaming malicious Linux hackers for destroying their business (ironically using the right term)

    Now unless you're violating a license agreement by not using their internet service you aren't doing anything illegal by turning this machine into a Linux box. Sure, it seems very stupid to me that the company would sell these machines at what can only be a loss assuming they would make up their loss with the internet service -- but that's not the point here.

    Whether or not the people buying this machine are doing anything wrong, think of the bad publicity this thing could cause, not to mention the potential moral guilt of destroying a dumb company. It would be different if this company were selling millions of units and only a small handfull of people hacked it and installed Linux, but Slashdot is a big site now, and our "Slashdot Effect" can do more than just take down a small web server.

    Something to think about anyhow...

  • I'm wondering if the internal modem is a serial device working through a UART on the board, or if it is on an ISA(possibly PCI) bus, like a normal internal modem.
    If the later is the case, it should only be a matter of a little solder work to get a normal ethernet NIC in there.
  • by GI Jones ( 21552 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:23AM (#1209951) Homepage
    All this talk of a $99 Linux box puzzles me. I have yet to figure out how such a thing costs $99. If you purchase the unit for $99 and it require mods... will it not be more? Maybe all of you out there have a few extra 2.5" HDs in the scrap parts box... I don't... I am afraid that will be a few extra dollars... you can probably pick a small one up for $75 - $100... by the time you start adding things up (include your time)... you could have purchased a 400 mhz eMachine.

    Small footprint... yes... flat panel...yes... $99... no.

    I think this thing is awesome... I am going to track one down this weekend... I want to perform the mods... but I'm not fooling myself... this thing is not $99 when all is said and done... I figure to do it right, $350 - $400 to get it up on a network.

    Side note: If someone can find a way to retro-fit this thing into a notebook case for under $400... let me know... make this thing portable and keep the modem and I am a happy Linux camper.

    Just my $.02
  • From the site:

    Yamaha YMF715 Stereo Speakers Doesn't say anything about the sound chip, though? Is it any good [or upgradable?]. I don't think that PLIP could get the bandwidth, but with USB ethernet, I could also plug this into my home network to play MP3's stored on my server!!

  • by slothbait ( 2922 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:28AM (#1209957)
    ...and stop complaining. Putting linux on everything (including Palm Pilots) is just a geek game. Welcome to Slashdot.

    If it wasn't for people with this hackish spirit, we may never have had PC's in the first place. Do you have any idea how useless early systems like the Altair were? All you had was switches and lights, but hackers went nuts over them. Over time, they improved them, and now we have our modern PC's.

    I think its an interesting post. The hack wasn't very technical, but it is kind of cute.

  • FreeBSD 4.0 has support for a USB-10BT adapter.
  • by tony clifton ( 134762 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:32AM (#1209961)
    An IDE CD-ROM is a lot cheaper and easier to work with than a 2.5" hard disk. If the BIOS supports the El-Torito Bootable CDRom stuff, that's another way to get your favorite linux distro on it -- especially if you can get the 16M flash to work as well. Nifty!!!
  • I assume the QNX/Software comes on the 16MB flash chips, there is no disk to nuke. This page doesn't say anything about needing to re-flash, so when you decide you're done with it, you can just yank the HD and give it to a family member to use as it was originally intended.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:35AM (#1209964)
    if the comm port can be used as a proper port and not some hacky modem-only thing, then it has all you need for a neat mp3 player:

    • parallel port to drive an [] (mp3 decoder, audio dac)
    • serial port for an IR remote control (realmagic [] brand is $20 and has a linux driver)
    • video display is already there for songname, bandname, album art graphics, etc.
    • add a 10gig notebook drive (under $300) and you have lots of storage for mp3 files

  • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @09:35AM (#1209965) Homepage Journal
    I know that alot of people here think the EULAs are junk, but in reality some of them are legitimate. Although I think this is very cool, isn't this a blatant misuse of their device. I assume that there is somewhere where they say you can't disassemble them, and in this case, where they are selling them at a loss, they have a legitimate reason to request this.

    I don't think they did, and the EULA wouldn't be needed. All they need is a cell-phone like contract when you buy that you sign up for X months of their $20 service, or pay a sliding termination fee. Which as far as I know they don't (yet) require.

    Those contracts are enforcable (since you sign them when you buy the product, not "click" them after). And in my opnion they are also fair since you know the terms before you get home. That's the thing I hate about the EULA. You can buy a product and when you get home discover that there are all sorts of restrictions on it. I want to know what I'm buying before I put my money down. I don't want to get home and then decide I have to drive back to the damm store and return it.

    The downside (from netpliance's point of view) is people don't like to make that kind of commitment. Just look at how many more people sign up for the no/low commit moble phones now vs. about five years ago when there were no low commit (let alone no commit) phone plans!

    On a second note, what are the terms of their contract. Assuming you are buying the product, and not just on an indefinate lease, how long are you required to use their internet service before terminating the contract?

    From what I have read here, there is none. Even if there was one this would be nice because it means there would be a use for this $99 box even if netpliance went bankrupt (and face it, this kind of market is really rough, they have to compete with $0 PCs offering the same kind of deal, but with a 2 to 4 year ISP commitment).

  • The page says that you have to install a 2.5" hard drive unless you can find a way to use the 16mb flash. The thing is, it seems like you could use the flash. Anyone have any pointers here?

  • apparently, because you could also put BeOS on it. now, just add that USB-ethernet adapter...
  • This thing uses a Yamaha YMF715 audio chip. As far as I know, it is not supported under Linux.

    I am running Debian 2.2 and have seen no way to get the audio working.

  • by Patrick ( 530 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:04AM (#1209985)
    8.The company assumes they will recover this loss when these thousands of people start paying for their internet service
    9.These users don't sign up for the internet service and the company doesn't make their money back

    If the company doesn't require the purchase of Internet service, it's their own blunder. In capitalistic markets, stupid companies die, and smart ones succeed. Pitying dumb companies is counterproductive for yourself and for the market as a whole. Selling products at a loss without some assurance of a tied-in gain is stupid, and any company that does it is asking to fail.

    Fortunately for Netpliance (and unfortunately for me), iOpeners are only $99 with premium service, a whopping $22/mo. If they allow users to cancel the service immediately, we're back to "It's their own damn fault" territory.

  • by linux-hacker ( 161874 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:07AM (#1209986)
    the screen is the new sharp dualscan 800x600 16bpp you can fdisk and format the internal flash disk it will boot off the flash disk if there is no hard drive plugged in.. and you can replace the kb it just uses a ps2 plug thats how you get into setup ctl+alt+esc ! i use a dlink de620 par either net adapter and it works well.. the cpu does about 80 bogomips i swaped the winchip whith a itel 200 pre mmx 3.4v core and bogomips when about 3x i will update the page and fix the forum tonight thanks for the ./ codeman
  • by TurkishGeek ( 61318 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:08AM (#1209987)
    I'm glad this became an article today. I was one of the posters who suggested this should be an article yesterday [], on Microsoft X-box thread.

    My plan is to hack one into a wireless LCD screen Linux system for less than $200. I believe this can be done, but I will need some help. Here is the known specs:

    • The box uses a Winchip 180MHz processor.
    • The chipset consists of Trident Cyberglade i7, which is a mobile version of VIA's MVP4 northbridge + integrated UMA video chip. It's fully supported by XFree86, and the person who hacked the i-opener first was kind enough to email me the Xconfig file. The other component of the chipset is a VIA southbridge. The northbridge has the PCI bus interface, and the southbridge has an ISA bus.
    • The modem is an add-on daughterboard, and sits on an interface that nobody has been able to identify yet. If I were one of the engineers of i-opener, I would have used the ISA bus along with a PC/104 type connector. I haven't seen the board myself yet, but I'm hoping it is either some kind of custom connector for the ISA bus, or PC/104, or some kind of PCMCIA connector.
    • If the modem is really on an ISA bus, the modem daughterboard can be removed, and an ISA PCMCIA adapter card can be connected here with the help of a custom cable assembly/an ISA slot from an old motherboard. My plan is to use the card that comes with the Webgear Aviator 2.4 IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN kit. Then you can plug any PCMCIA card to this adapter, Ethernet, your choice of a IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN card, etc. (I recommend the $70 Aviator 2.4)
    • If the modem is connected to a PCMCIA connector(which doesn't make any sense really-the ISA bus is already there, and if they really wanted ISA extensibility, why didn't they just add a proper PCMCIA connector?); then provided that the PCMCIA controller is supported by Linux, it should be easy to connect your choice of PCMCIA card there.

      Will anyone who has seen the actual board, or who knows anything about it, please comment on my idea? If anyone can identify the connection of the modem daughterboard to the motherboard, it's even better. Some people suggested that it was PCMCIA, in this case, does anyone know which PCMCIA controller is used?

      If this can be done, and we have access to the ISA bus or a PCMCIA connector on the i-opener, possibilities are endless. The i-opener has barely enough space inside to house a small ISA card with the metal bracket removed. With an ISA Ethernet board with a boot ROM, you can build a diskless X terminal; or you can try adding a wireless LAN card like me.

      If I can pull this off, I will post it as an article on my Bluetooth Central [] to share.

    -- []
    A site for everything Bluetooth. Coming soon.
  • by Nicolas MONNET ( 4727 ) <> on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:10AM (#1209988) Journal
    Just get an USB-Ethernet adapter. They will probably cost more than the machine though ...
  • I don't think X would easily fit in 16Meg. Now, you could just NFS mount /usr and get rolling ... that's cool indeed!
  • I just checked out their website. All three locations nearest me and their shipping location are out of stock. Not sure what to make of this, but I doubt they'd respond this quickly for NetAppliance.

  • in the bay area, at least ;-(

  • by gleam ( 19528 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:44AM (#1210012) Homepage
    I priced the components earlier (I'm very intrigued by the possibility) and a 2 gig 2.5" IDE hard drive is $72. That's an IBM hdd, too, so it's likely quite good quality. A USB ethernet card is approx $30 for the low end ones, but I didn't check for supported ones. My guess is that the low end ones are the supported ones.

    So we have now a whopping $200, which is what the unit cost originally. So while it's twice the price, it's still undeniably nifty.

    Somewhere below (above?) someone mentioned a parallel port ethernet card which is also supported under linux. That, however, costs around $75 or $100, so now we're in the 275$ range.

    Not nearly $350-400, though. And $275 (or even better, $200) is a fabulous deal for a tiny little terminal.

  • by Kyler Laird ( 148368 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @10:52AM (#1210017)

    If you want to give me $75-$100 for a small 2.5" IDE drive [], let me know and I'll send you my address.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 11, 2000 @11:07AM (#1210028)
    Of course, you could just use QNX, the os the iopener is _actually_ using. -William Bull
  • by a poor scribbler ( 161797 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @11:16AM (#1210035)
    For 99 bucks
    Those who dare open the box
    Run Unix for cheap.
  • I've been looking for some kinda cheap LCD xterm like this. I'm thinking about picking one of these up and moding it. Hmm, extra RAM for the Powerbook or an i-opener...such decsions. Some people have asked in Netpliance is going to go out of business because they'll sell a bunch of boxes without selling the internet service that comes with them. I highly doubt it, scores more people will buy the i-opener to use in its standard configuration with a small small handful (one out of 400) buying them to modify them. Oh well, it would be their own fault, not ours. I wonder if I could replace the processor in it...
  • A: You have plenty of processor power to decode MP3, no $100 outboard dongle required. I also found it odd how hard it was to find that price on the lp3 web page.

    B: You can build a parallel port IR reciever that will work with just about any remote controll and with the linux infrared remote controll drivers for about $10 worth of radioshack parts. see .html [] for a scematic.

    Happy hacking :)
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @11:27AM (#1210044)
    We just picked 2 of them up. They require no contract at purchase time, so we own the units without being required to purchase service.
  • To be nice I thought I'd be provide some links to 2.5" HDs and Accessories:

    eCost [] - A listing of some notebook (2.5 mostly) hard drives

    PriceTrack [] - A listing on 1.0 to 3.9 gig Hard Drives (some may not be 2.5)

    More 2.5 Drive Comparisions [] - Just more of the same

    IDE Connectors [] - May or may not be what your looking for

    Hope it helped,


  • I think this is great motivation for someone to make an ethernet adapter that uses the IDE interface, and write a linux driver for it. Then you'd just chain it after your hard drive and go.

    Now, what about IDE 21" monitor, or maybe an IDE-USB convertor to go with it
  • by alhaz ( 11039 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @11:33AM (#1210050) Homepage
    why settle for vnc? You can easily get XWindows up and running in 16 megs of flash.
  • Instead of using a HD, why not just have the 16 Meg Flash boot and mount root over NFS?
  • >> I don't see Linux on my digital watch, why doesn't someone fix that?
    > Oh, man, THAT would be COOL as shit!!!!

    Even better - tommorrow I'm planning on overclocking my watch.
  • This is classic razor/razor blade marketing. It's not anti-competitive. The idea is to seed the market so that it is ready to buy your product. Zip drives are sold on the same principle.
  • Oh, yeah, I forgot about the need for a NIC.

    This is not relevent today, but there are USB NICs out there, and hopefully they will be suppored soon.

  • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Saturday March 11, 2000 @01:20PM (#1210095)
    They aren't just making money off of the ISP. If you look at the keyboard, where the function keys are, there is instead hotlinks to various services - shopping, email, even a pizza button. They probably get money from every sale made via those hot buttons, similar to amazon's web partnering.

  • I found this while doing a quick google search for 'winchip specifications'. The original page is long gone, but the cache is good:

    W inchip Specs []

    Another site, the Indiana University Knowledge Base [] had some decent, general information, but nothing on bus speeds and voltages.

    The short answer is that this is a 60MHz bus box, probably 3.3v. If the chip was running at 200MHz, the bus would be 66MHz. The 3.3v will be fine for my Pentium 166-MMX, and the 60MHz bus should run okay with my chip (according to Intel's documentation []. Whee! I'll have to check the documentation on my AMD K6 233MHz later.


  • $100 outboard dongle required.

    I wasn't sure if the onboard sound was linux-supported. and besides, the lp3device (I own one) sounds VERY good. I would bet its at least 10db quieter, maybe 20, than the onboard sound.

    ...parallel port IR reciever

    now, that one takes cpu since it has to poll in a tight loop (I built that before junking it and just buying the nice RealMagic system).

    so while the above post contains info that will work ok, having very recently built a "dedicated" linux mp3 box (custom box, with onboard lcd display and IR remote in a stereo component sized plastic box) I know that the serial-based ir remote is sensitive and resistant enough to noise to be useful for 20 feet or so.

    and the lp3 device is very quiet (ultra low noise). any sound card that is that low noise will easily run $100 and more.


  • I sure wish that CompUSA or Best Buy carried these things. I may just have to drive about 250 to the nearest Circuit City to get one. I've even got a 340M 2.5" hard drive sitting around idle (ripped out of a laptop to replace it with a bigger drive), so all I'd need would be the cable and to make a mounting bracket...

  • Even better - tommorrow I'm planning on overclocking my watch.

    I've been saying there's not enough hours in the day for years... I knew there had to be a way to do it. :-)

    Seriously, now...

    Speaking of overclocking, I wonder if there's a way to change the bus speed and/or multiplier (and voltage!) on this little puppy. From the picture it looks like it's got a standard ZIF Socket 7. It comes with a pretty wussy 180MHz winchip processor; I've got faster chips than that gathering dust in my parts drawer. It would be nice to be able to just drop in a K6-2/350, or even a P-233mmx for that matter.

    "The axiom 'An honest man has nothing to fear from the police'

  • Didn't something along those lines happen with Sony when the playstation first came out? They tried to say that it was illegal to modify your playstation to play out of region games and the courts basically said "If the customer bought it, the customer can do with it what they will, but don't cry to sony if you melt your playstation"
  • I know this is a bad thing to say on slashdot, but I got win 98 SE running on my i-opnener. I already had an i-opener (won at a trade show) I took a 1.2 gig IBM 2.5 HD that had all the cab files on it, booted off it, and was able to get windows 98SE installed. The Modem is yet to work, but from having An iMac 333, i have a USB Superdisk drive that runs on the USB port, and an USB to Ethernet adapter. I already have office 2000 running on it. One other thing, You can use any iMac Rev a-d memory in it. I popped in a 64 meg chip for the 32. I do think that the bios only allows 64 megs of ra, to be adrressed though.

    If you have any question email me, I will try to get linux on a spare HD to Install.

  • all the local stores were out. and I wasn't sure they'd actually get these units, once the manuf. gets slashdotted (or finally realizes what has happened).

    so I ordered one via the phone. even with the $39 'shipping' charge, its still a bargain. long as they don't get sneaky and change the internals so we can no longer use this as a linux box ;-(


  • {sorry for the followup on my own post).

    this was funny; when I ordered via the customer sales rep, he was confused that I didn't want to order the internet service along with it."yeah, I'm going to be using it as a gift and I'll let the recipient do the internet registration stuff" ;-)

    the real funny part was that the sales guy said something like, "and here's your confirmation number. you'll need that number when you call in for tech support; and I know you'll be calling in for them after you receive your unit..". meaning, of course, he thought I was planning to use it as-is with some other isp. I guess he doesn't realize that this unit is totally useable as a standalone box with a real o/s on it.


  • I got a demo Psion netbook [] the other day and almost immediately loaned it to one of the freshmeat kids to play with. Guess what he's doing with it? :)

    Actually, the netbook is cute enough on its own that I think I'll keep it even if I end up using the proprietary OS that comes with it.

    No reason not to *try* to run Linux on everything. Or to get a Merlin wireless card to work on a Psion or, failing that, through an analog cellular phone...

    This is the kind of thing that makes life fun!

    - Robin

  • Could it be AMR? (=Audio/Modem Riser)

    It is a standard endorsed by Intel and based on an AC-97 [] serial interface to the codec.

    If this is the case it means that something else on the board is doing the actual DSP work and presenting the result to the CPU as a standard modem.

  • St. Louis, MO. We picked up the last 2 units available in the St. Louis area (we actually had to drive into Illinois)! Whew..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 11, 2000 @05:42PM (#1210174)
    Just went down to Circuit City and bought two I-Openers for $99 a pop (one for me and one for my boss). There wasn't any kind of contract or anything -- just $99 for the thing. Mine has a 180 MHz WinChip, 32MB ram, and a 10" 800x600 display.

    Fun things to do with an I-Opener:

    1. - Plug in a normal PS/2 keyboard (one with an ESC key). Or, you can take a laptop PS/2 "Y" cable and plug in both the mouse and keyboard (the mouse and keyboard are reversed, ie., plug the mouse into the keyboard connector and the keyboard into the mouse connector).

    2. - Wait for the system to boot up and go into the tutorial. Let it get far enough into the tutorial that it waits for your input so that it doesn't keep getting in your way.

    3. - Press ESC-4 a few times. This will bring up a shell with root access. You are now in the QNX operating System.

    4. - The first thing you will want to do is allow root to login.

    : cd /etc
    : chmod +www passwd
    : vi passwd
    (delete the first "x" in the root entry)
    : chmod -www passwd

    now you can login as root without a password. Note that this change is not permanent. To make the change permanent you have to make the change to the passwd~ file. Note, the system won't let you make the change to the passwd~ file, so you have to mv passwd~ to passwd_old and then copy passwd_old to passwd~ and then make the change.

    5. - do a "ps". Probably the very last thing you will see is something like "/app/start-photon".

    6. - kill the /app/start-photon

    You will now be at a text-only screen where you can login as root.


    - Don't delete /app/start-photon ! I did this, and now my system does nothing. I will have to get a harddrive to boot from now.

    - Hitting the power button to power off only powers off the display (it might also put the processor into sleep mode, I dunno). Powering off doesn't "power off". You have to disconnect power to do a hard boot.

    - These things have a telnet daemon and a www daemon running in the background by default.

    I'm sure if you knew QNX well enough, you could just use the underlying system there to dialup to the internet, download a linux kernel and install it onto the flash directly. But seeing as I've pretty much hosed up my system by deleting a startup file, I'm going to have to hook up a hard drive anyway.

    Mark Fassler
    fassler at verinet dot com
  • That *would* be cool. I wonder if there are any really big watches that are computer-like enough to install any sort of operating system.

    I also wonder if anyone has been able to install an operating system on graphical calculators. Off to the NetBSD website I go!
  • If the thing already runs QNX, what's the possibility of just hacking through whatever sort of UI stuff that automagically boots from the built-in flashdisk thing and just getting a basic QNX system running on it.


  • does it have enough juice to decode mp3s?

    16 megs of flash to speedly boot from, an IDE CDROM for the mp3s.. At that price, I should get one for the living room and one for the car..

  • The 2.5" disk do have the same cable pinout as the 3.5" drives. Most of the 3.5->2.5 adapters won't work in this box for two reasons. First, they have the wrong genders for the connections. Second, the biggest difference between 3.5" drives and 2.5" drives is that the 3.5" drives need +12V and +5V, while the 2.5" drives take only +5V. Since this is the standard (almost) 44 pin 2.5" conenctor, you don't have a +12V signal to give to your 3.5" drive.
  • ...And the purpose of that would be? That solution would be multitudes more expensive than simply using the provided IDE interface.


  • It is safe to assume that it's possible to hack an audio output, since the thing has speakers and a sound card


  • In fact, here is a link about using the Cyberblade i7 drivers on an NEC PC notebook for those who are skeptical about running win 98 000_press_releases/nec_cyberblade_i7.htm
  • It doesn't mention a minimium period, but I'm sure there is one.

    I bought one and there was no mention anywhere about a minimum length of contract, so they're screwed. I didn't sign anything / click on anything that said I agreed to anything whatsoever so I guess it's tough titty for them!

    Buy the 3 months service for $65, and you have to pay more for the machine itself.

    How do you figure? $99 machine, $65 for 3 months service. $65

  • Well I live in PA (East Coast). What do you mean by 'no service'? Do you mean they're not requiring you to purchase this ISP plan deal? Or that circuit city (et. al) won't provide service at that price? I was curious about that myself. If, when you purchase one from circuit city, they also make you sign a contract to purchase the ISP service stuff, or something to that effect...

  • TurkishGeek writes:
    > [ lots of very valid stuff about how this will likely not put Netpliance out of business,
    > but how their business model is, at least presently, flawed, and how it's too late for them to do
    > much about it now anyways ]

    He also writes one thing with which I disagree:
    > I would like to hereby congratulate the Netpliance engineer who invented [ the flipped-pins
    >on the IDE port for "security" ] . It would be too bad if he went back to
    > flipping burgers just weeks before the IPO.

    Hell, I'd like to thank said engineer. For making it possible for all of us to enjoy a really cool toy for $99.

    I'd also like to point out to his bosses that Netpliance's sales may well skyrocket before the IPO. Even if Netpliance doesn't see the kind of revenue it originally projected, by using a relatively open architecture with no real effort made at preventing re-use of the hardware, it's made a name for itself among geeks.

    The poster to whom I'm replying also made a suggestion: that Netpliance consider selling general-purpose versions of these machines in the $200-250 range.

    I'd like to echo that suggestion. It's a damn sexy box. Hell, it exudes sex. I, along with many other Slashdot readers, am probably gonna buy one of these things at $99+$30 shipping in order to hack it to run Linux and skip the built-in ISP part of the equation. That's because I'm not afraid of voiding a warranty with a soldering iron.

    But given that the hack will likely take a few hours, and given that an even larger contingent on Slashdot may question their ability to re-pin a ribbon cable, I'd think there'd be strong and widespread interest in buying the unit unencumbered for $200-250. Truth be known, even though I enjoy mucking about with a soldering iron, I'd probably have preferred to pay a little extra and buy the unit that way myself.

    If you're a Netpliance exec and you're reading this, and if there's a reasonable price point at which you can sell the unit and still make money - please consider it as an option. What looks like today's disaster may simply be tomorrow's opportunity in disguise. There's a reason your call volume and web site traffic just soared tonight.

    So don't fire him. Give the guy who thought up the pin-swapped IDE connector a helluva bonus. If you'd built the box on a wholly-proprietary architecture, it would have cost far more to build, and would have had no geek appeal whatsoever.

    But as it stands - it runs UNIX (whether QNX or Linux) and it's a flatscreen and it's expandable - it's bloody sexy, and I'm gonna buy one. I'll buy it for $99+30 and hack it -- but only because I didn't have the option for buying it at $200-250 without the ISP tie-in.

  • If there's one IDE connector, and there is a memory device on it (as the master, presumably), would there be anything preventing one from rigging up a cable and attaching a hard disk as a slave device?
  • Nice to know I'm not the only person who'd like to get one to the UK to have a play with ;)

    I suspect a more enterprising slashdotter could buy up a bundle, make the necessary adaptions and stick them on eBay. Anyone feeling tempted, or do I have to fly across the Atlantic to get a £60 computer? ;) OK, _several_ £60 computers...

  • My friend Rob and I went to Circuit City up in Nashua, NH this afternoon to buy a couple. They were sold out. In fact, every Circuit City within an hour's drive of Nashua was sold out of them - most had been sold in the last day, as far as the sales rep knew! We went onto a backorder list, with 8 more people ahead of us.

    So now we have proof that the /. effect applies to meatspace, too. This is probably the first time that a consumer electronics chain has been slashdotted...

    Imagine the faces back at headquarters when they see the weekend sales figures. They'll be so excited, waiting for all the new ISP subscriptions that they'll expect to be getting - I feel kind of sorry for them.

    - -Josh Turiel

  • I emailed the company that someone suggested earlier in this board. Here is the email. I hope this helps though honestly I can't decide if that is
    the cable I want or not. Anyone know anything about the specific cable she is referring to?

    With regards to your message at 02:28 AM
    3/12/00 -0600, John. Where you stated:
    >I need a 44pin IDE cable (laptop ide
    >connection size) for a 2.5" hard drive.
    >First, do you have these, and what is the
    >price? Second, if possible I need
    >one that has pins 1 and 2 swapped, 3 and 4
    >swapped, 5 and 6 swapped, etc.
    >Are these type cables available? Thank you >very much for your time.
    We stock the internal IDE cable for the Multia/UDB Computer as part number
    Cost per FC530 is $10 US / $15 CAD.
    Cost of shipping / handling by mail is $5 US for USA destinations and $5
    CAD for Canadian.

    We accept payment by cashiers cheque, money order, VISA or Mastercard.
    If you prefer not to send credit information by email we suggest you may
    consider faxing us your particulars.
    We process the orders within 1 business day and normally ship in North
    America by airmail. This takes from 4 to 10 days depending on location. If
    needed we can also send by courier, but this is much more expensive.

    To process your order we would need:
    Address, including ZIP or postal code

    If paying by credit card we also need:
    Type of card (VISA or Mastercard)
    Name of credit card holder as shown on the face of the card
    Card number
    Expiry date of card

    If processing your order on credit card and if you are in the US the exact
    charges may be slightly different as we post the charges in Canadian
    dollars and your bank/credit card company performs the actual currency
    exchange. As rates fluctuate it may be out by a per cent or 2.

    We thank you for your enquiry!

    Best regards,

    Maurice W. Hilarius Telephone: 01-780-456-9771
    Hard Data Ltd. FAX: 01-780-456-9772
    11060 - 166 Avenue
    Edmonton, AB, Canada
    T5X 1Y3

    03-12-2000 18:51:57

    RE:Souce For Mini IDE cables? (modified 0 times)

    I looked up the specs for the Multia and it is a 44 pin IDE connector for a hard-drive. The manual doesn't provide any pinouts for it, so I'll guess
    that it would still need the pins reversed.

    Any idea on the length? It looks about 3 inches in the picture. Not a lot of room to work with....

    This is the best page I've found on it so far:


    Check it out... full-featured listserv.

    I am the list mom. :O

    "What have I done?"
  • #i-opener-linux experimentation reveals the
    interface to be a standard serial port plus
    four extra lines, two for incoming phone line
    and two for outgoing phone line.

    so, you've got a COM1 port to play with. no bus.

    sorry :(

    it has a USB port though. lots of stuff can
    fit in a usb port. like a $4o USB to ethernet
    adaptor. also available in wireless.
  • I am doing and have done several similar "conversion" projects with embedded computers and Linux.

    My first conversion of this type (other than laptops, which I was running Linux on way before it was cool, and when video drivers were a really ugly problem) was an Epson IM-403 cash register computer. (Available from Timeline, the surplus guys, for $99.) It's got a lot less stones than the iOpener, and no screen, but it does have a nifty if tiny little UPS that lets it ride out most power glitches. I've posted about this project here on /. before, but in a nutshell:
    - 486SX33 CPU, pretty nice little BIOS
    - nice little Chips and Tech video controller will do 800x600 max to std VGA connector
    - four serial ports (great for control projects!)
    - a parallel port
    - socket/tray for a 2.5" IDE notebook hard disk (will accept even the tall 17 or 19mm drives, so you can put IBM's latest monster in it)
    - a single ISA half-card slot for the obligatory network card.
    - Socket for up to 32MB of RAM (plenty for a decent Linux system - I've run several versions of Caldera on the box, but recommend sticking to slim WMs for obvious reasons.)
    - Flat ribbon connector for Epson floppy (know where to order one, if you need it.)
    - Tiny little NiCad UPS built in. This is one of the coolest features, and the reason one of these is my primary file server at home. It will only keep the box alive for a few minutes, but that's always been enough so far.

    These run Linux fine, or if you just need vNC, you can run the DOS vNC client with the packet drivers or a stripped Linux with the SVGALIB vNC, either of which should fit on a floppy. [As an aside, I have one extra IM-403 with a 3GB HDD that I'll sell for $120+S&H in the US, if anyone's interested.]

    (BTW, anybody know where I can get a multiport network card (2 or more Ethers, 1 half-size ISA slot) that works under Linux? If so, I've got my new firewall...)

    Also, I'm just starting to hack on a little ARM-based *touchscreen* webphone. These were built at enormous cost by AT&T and Philips before they decided they cost more than the market would bear. (They would have had to sell them for about $600.) They run AT&T's Inferno operating system, and are pretty darn nice speakerphones in addition to finally having the holy grail I've been searching for: a *touchscreen*. I think I can lay my hands on a couple hundred more of these at ~$200 each +S&H, if there's interest. They aren't speedy, but they have a built-in web browser and use one of those little WebTV-style wireless keyboards. Although I don't know of anyone that's replaced the OS (althogh ARM Linux is out there...), but there are hacking instructions available that show how to get root in Inferno. They don't have E-net connections, but do have two PCMCIA slots, so decent networking should be possible.

    I've done a lot of hacking with laptop hard disks, and it's extraordianrily difficult to get the 44-pin cables for these things, especially if you want a cable to support two of the little drives. (Which I'd like to do for several machines I've got, including my FIC Sahara Databook, which uses a notebook CDROM on the secondary IDE channel that could give me a place to hang a backup drive. I can't even find anyplace to get a cable like that *made* anywhere here in Austin! You can get the connectors from Jameco, but I haven't found out where to get the dinkier ribon cable these need. (The 44-pin IDE 2.5" drive header uses 2mm pin spacing rather than the standard .1" used by pretty much all other header connectors - damn metric system!)

    Also, a local computer shop once had sockets and little plastic cases to allow a 2.5" HDD to be plugged into a 3.5" drive bay socket. They don't have them anymore. Anybody stumble across these in your searches?
  • Make sure you check out the availability of this at your local Circuit City [] store before you drive to buy one. When I checked it out, neither of the stores near me had any, and they weren't available for direct shipping, either. Just a heads up...
  • If you are talking Linux you may be able to override the BIOS limitation by using something like "mem=131072k" as an append parameter in LILO.

    I don't know for sure if this will work with the Iopener, but it does for one of my old PC's which also has a 64M BIOS limit.

  • Given how cool these things are, I'm not too surprised that supply is tight. I wonder how many other hardware hackers out there are buying them versus the number of people buying them for the intended use.

    As I said before, unfortunately, I don't have a local Circuit City (I live in a small town of about 300k people out in the boondocks). The nearest ones to me are 250-300 miles away, so you can bet I would call first and have them hold one for me before I'd make that kind of a drive! It would majorly suck to drive 5 or 6 hours for nothing, especially with the horribly ridiculous gas prices recently.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito