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Flat Panel Linux Box for $99?

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the hacking-the-hardware dept.

Linux 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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Heheheh (2)

niekze (96793) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209870)

But will it run text mode quake?

"perfect" is a bit of an overstatement. (1)

hatless (8275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209871)

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.

Linux & modified hardware (1)

loofa (61849) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209872)

Perfect - both a hardware hack, and a cool operating system. Why would any user want to run the proprietary OS it comes with?

perfect . . . almost (1)

noc (97855) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209873)

X over a parallel port? ick

Re:"perfect" is a bit of an overstatement. (2)

stickyc (38756) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209874)

According to the page, it's 800x600x16.

Looks like.... (1)

Chester K (145560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209875)

... 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.

Awesome! (3)

Booker (6173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209876)

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...


Re:"perfect" is a bit of an overstatement. (1)

ahren (82235) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209877)

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.

Huh. Interesting but not quite useful yet. (1)

jefp (90879) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209878)

Mainly, it needs an ethernet port.

Hmmm (1)

niekze (96793) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209879)

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.

some further ideas (1)

borzwazie (101172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209880)

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!

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209881)

But you keep coming back for more though...


Re:Huh. Interesting but not quite useful yet. (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209882)

It has a USB port so you can buy a USB Ethernet adapter.

Re:Hmmm (1)

storem (117912) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209883)

USB to Ethernet solution? Maybe need some kernel hacking :))

Ubiquitousness (3)

Datafage (75835) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209884)

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!


:o) (1)

shipperZ (133202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209885)

I love when I hear about people hacking equipment like this. A very good use of creative energies.

Duh... (1)

MeanGene (17515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209886)

It may be a good idea to put this thing in a bathtroom for an uninterrupted "experience" while on a toilet. It'd probably be an even better idea to trick the host home server to emulate i-opener's dial-up service and be a proxy.

BUT... 10" 800x600 "crisp" screen (old passive LCD technology?) makes my eyes worried.

Re:Awesome! (2)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209887)

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. :)

Linux on a WINChip (1)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209888)

The fact that they're calling an x86 chip a "WINChip" exemplifies a marketing strategy that takes advantage of a consumer market that thinks P.C.=Windows. Of course, the WINChip seems to completely suck in tech and marketing, and most of the zombies will still look for the Intel Inside sticker. Still, I am thrilled to see that there are products in existence with a 10" LCD for a total cost of $99. Now, if only laptop prices would come down...

Cool (1)

AlexA (97006) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209889)

That's tight. Looks like Larry Ellison's dream of having cheap NCs has finally come true... While running a superior operating system at the same time!

It even comes with a flat panel screen, and that for only $99. Impressive. I remember having to do an NC demo a couple of years ago for California ex-Governer Pete Wilson, and the NC we set up had a $4,000 flat panel. From about $4,000 to $99 (I'm sure the flat panel quality is less, but still) is a great improvement.

Re:Looks like.... (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209890)

Do 2.5" drives use the same IDE connector as normal ones? I'd hate to have to buy a laptop just to get the installation on there. ;)

USB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209891)

Couldn't one just use one of the devel kernels and wire it into a network with the usb port?

please... (3)

Docrates (148350) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209892)

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.

Re:So what? (3)

srhuston (161786) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209893)

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)

Re:Huh. Interesting but not quite useful yet. (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209894)

Does the USB in Linux support Ethernet adpaters yet? The last thing someone would want to do is buy an operating system that costs more than the unit just to use it.

Actually, a PCMCIA adaptor would be better to get connected. Then you can use any ethernet, wireless, token ring, etc card.

Because.. (2)

Booker (6173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209895)

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?


What about a virtual desktop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209896)

Ok, not perfect, but useful for those situations where you need to deal with larger windows.

Is this thing a "loss-leader" for selling their (3)

_Mustang (96904) | more than 14 years ago | (#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...

Re:Ubiquitousness (2)

shipperZ (133202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209898)

>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!!!!

What about ethernet over the USB port? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209899)

It's got a USB port. How is Linux USB support (particularly for USB<-->Ethernet) these days?

Netpliance impressions (3)

victim (30647) | more than 14 years ago | (#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. :-)

Right, but... (3)

Booker (6173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209901)

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.


Because it's the geeky thing to do! (2)

billyt007 (126527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209902)

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

interesting project (1)

gadwale (46632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209903)

wow! This is the first time I have been able to read a story before the site got slashdotted! Most people argue this is useless and has not practical application, so what? Its fun, easy and costs $99! If not anything else, it is a cool weekend project. Now, if only somebody could post info on 2.5inch hard drives and switching ide cables, this is something I would do today!

if not anything else, this would make a nice way for sharing one internet connection don't have much money left after my 850 athlon order and when it gets here my roommate can have her own x-terminal and stop bugging me.

x term $99
freedom from roomie $priceless.

what are the chances of using a usb cable for this?

"what kind of a rescue mission is this?!!"
- Mission to Mars

Price Must Vary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209904)

The Circuit City in my town sells them for $299 not $99.

Re:Awesome! (0)

kovacsp (113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209905)

Ah, but the problem is they're losing money on the units and making it back on the ISP fees. (Just like everybody in the known universe). So every unit sold is money lost for them.

Hmmm... (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209906)

The page says that these terminals have a 16MB Sandisk on board. If so, forget the internal hard disk (although you're going to need it to do the Sandisk install) that's enough to get it booting.

On top of that, if the USB-to-Ethernet support in the latest development kernels is at a reasonable level of stability (I haven't checked them lately, so no guarantees), you should be able to boot the kernel and a minimal system from the Sandisk, and mount the rest of your system over the USB connector. OK, it's not gonna be superfast, but it'd do as a second screen for a server.

What is the legality behind this? (3)

Wycliffe (116160) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209907)

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?

ISP Service Cancellation (4)

borzwazie (101172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209908)

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!

Re:Ubiquitousness (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209909)

I'd buy a handfull of these units if it were completely hackable. Can you buy a real computer with monitor for $99? Sure it's not a full desktop kernel-compiling powerhouse, but it's decent for a kid computer, or family members who hate computers. The ISP charge ($21.95/mo) is a bit much to me, but slap Linux on and use any old local ISP for $10 or something.

So, keep on hacking devices and put Linux on them, people!

Re:Ubiquitousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209910)

Because people can? Geeks like to tinker with stuff and many of them 'port' Linux to devices just to see "if it can be done", what's so wrong about that?

Parallel Port ethernet (3)

JDax (148242) | more than 14 years ago | (#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...

get it in europe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209912)

does anybody know, whether i can get such computer outside of the use (in europe)?

But this is tiny. No PC case! What is similar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209913)

I mean, where else am I going to get a similer small foorprint PC for $99? This is perfect as a web/shell terminal in the living room where you don't want a lot of wires running between lots of devices making lots of whirring noises and taking up lots of space.

Slashdotted (1)

Lutz (112651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209914)

I tried to call them, too. But they seem to be slashdotted... I wonder if they are willing to send this thing to Germany :-)

Re:Looks like.... (1)

Rob-G (39797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209915)

Yes, and "they" made a custom IDE cable to get it to work.
That means that when you simply plug the HD in with a standard cable, nothing happens. That's when the hacking starts.

USB networking (3)

Booker (6173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209916)

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.


I want one ! But I am in Canada.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209917)

The form on does not let me put in a Canadian address. :-( any sugestion ???

Re:Parallel Port ethernet - ADDTRON! (1)

JDax (148242) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209918)

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...

Replying to my own post! &nbsp Found the name of the parallel port ethernet adapter - ADDTRON. &nbsp Supposedly the DE-420, 450, & 600 are supported on Linux.

[ Reply to This | Parent ]

Bravo!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209919)

This thing rocks! This hack is superior in its simplicity and craftsmanship!! Great job! The ethernet via usb is probably the hook for X rather than over serial.

A market opportunity? (3)

HalJohnson (86701) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209920)

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?

RAM limit? (1)

Hallow (2706) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209921)

Well, 32MB is kinda small nowadays, even with swap.
I wonder if this thing could handle a 64MB or 128MB or even a 256MB SODIMM?

Ethernet (1)

Andaire (127706) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209922)

It's got a USB port. You can buy a decent USB->10BaseT adapter for $70 or less. Linux has experimental support for some of these in 2.3. This is a really cool toy.

Re:perfect . . . almost (1)

MrPoopyPants (146504) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209923)

X runs locally. The parallel port would be for network connectivity. ick still applies.

Maybe with kernel 2.4.x we'll be able to get USB networking on this guy.

Marketing.. pah! (1)

crivens (112213) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209924)

"Q: Can I use my current ISP or any other ISP of my choice with i-opener? A: To ensure a pleasant customer experience, i-opener includes Internet access service in order to provide automatic software updates and instant offline access to news, weather, sports, finance, and entertainment news." I take it that's a no? Why can't they just say no?

What about in the UK? (1)

Joel Rowbottom (89350) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209925)

A coupla questions:
  • Can I get my hands on one in the UK? I just took a look and you have to subscribe to their ISP thingy to get one, and that's only in the US. I was about to buy one to play with when I saw that they won't ship out of the US.

  • At $99, it's worth it just for the LCD screen to attach up to rackmount machines. Anyone managed to rip the head off one of these things yet?

  • And a thought: these things would make excellent cheap EPOS machines by the look of it. And certainly a lot cheaper than NCR's offerings.
If anyone succeeds in getting one to the UK, drop us a line will you [] ? Ta.

Re:Linux on a WINChip (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209926)

Aren't WinChip's the same pins as Pentiums? It could take some tweaking to figure out how to re-config the motherboard for different bus speeds/multipliers, but then you could drop in any K5/K6/Pentium/Winchip/Cyrix. I've got four various K6's lying around not doing anything. I'm sure the motherboard isn't 100Mhz, but get a nice multiplier and 66 isn't so bad for a simple device like this.

Re:Looks like.... (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209927)

You can buy adapters that do the pin conversions from a notebook drive to a standard ide drive. I bought one for less than 5 bucks at Fry's about 6 months ago.

Re:ISP Service Cancellation (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209928)

So just buy one month's service and cancel it next week. Sometimes it's just easier to do that than bother with talking to operators like this. They know how to subscribe you, they know how to unsubscribe you, don't throw them off with too much. ;)

Router (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209929)

How about a USB floppy drive to install one
of those "Router Distributions on a floppy"
with support for USB compiled in.

Hmmm...As I rush to the ATM

They're $99 on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209930)

Certainly circuit city's "we'll beat any advertised lower price" applies to their own web store?

hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209931)

no esc key... but on the website it says to enter setup press ctrl+alt+ESC? Does anybody else find this strange?


Re:Ubiquitousness (1)

god_of_the_machine (90151) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209932)

Well, I can think of a great reason: QNX is great for simple things, but many users want more! And Linux can provide this... take a gander at the browser FAQ page [] for the i-opener: It doesn't support Java, Real G2, Flash, or Acrobat. Linux provides all of these things and more: such as proper word processing, games, the list goes on an on. If you can get that for $99 I say "whoo hoo!" to that!

Of course, there is the question as to whether everything will run quickly under linux with gnome/E. The system seems to be on the low side of possible (180 mHz processor, 32 megs RAM, 2 megs Video RAM (from linux-hacker spec pages)) -- which means it will run, but it won't be what we are used to with desktop machines. But it's enough to want me to go check it out!

iopener in the kitchen (1)

gadwale (46632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209933)

This would also make a great subscription box in cases where you do not need a keyboard. Just plunk the lcd on the kitchen counter with a trackball and write a script where it will dial up my isp and refresh slashdot every ten minutes or so! Or keep it next to the tv for quick headline updates on the hour.. no keyboard required!
Or just keep it in a corner and run x-dali clock on it to complete the shaggy pad look. Or make it a stockticker on your desk!

iopener $99
get me away from my computer $priceless

EULA on signup process. Never run the SW and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209934)

You're not presented with the EULA when you buy the thing. It shows up after you run the software to sign up for service. If you nuke the disk, never having run the SW, you'll never see the EULA!

2.5" IDE (1)

techwatcher (112759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209935)

Yup, I do believe they do. You can get 2.5" drives anyway, without buying laptop, or get the IDE interface -- and IDE is a standard, after all.

Re:Parallel Port ethernet - ADDTRON! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209936)

Using a D-Link DE-620 here. Gets about 4MB/s so not TOO sucky. Actually quite usable.

If you are the ultimate nerd (ok, maybe just an above average nerd) try this:

One of these boxen with a minimal install (enough to boot - /bin /etc /sbin only)

Mount the /usr stuff from your powerhouse in the spare room. A Winchip 180 isn't too bad. Performs about the same as a P150.

With this setup what you have is a machine which runs its apps locally, mounts all the big stuff over ethernet and is silent. I would love one of these, but I'm in the UK just now. This thing looks like it beats my kludge with a PC104 board and an LCD screen, but I wouldn't want to give up my NEC Multisync LCD screen.

Does anybody know, do they ship internationally?

Agreed! - $200 Xterms, please. (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209937)

Even if it's repackaged iOpeners. Buy 'em for $99, pop in a small drive, sell em for $200. Even $250. That should cover a small drive, and with modest economies of scale, the labor too.


Re:hmmm... (1)

HalJohnson (86701) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209938)

The device probably doesn't let you get into setup normally. Since he hooked up his own keyboard, he had the escape key, and probably tried common key combonations and found the "setup mode".

I could be wrong though .

IDE connector (1)

jscott (11965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209939)

The connector is the same (pin spacing/diameter), save for 4 "extra" pins. These pins provide the voltage. Notice there isn't a standard power connection on the laptop hdd.

You don't need to buy a laptop to get one though. Xerox isn't the only company to use laptop hdd's in copy/print centers ;)

Re:ISP Service Cancellation (2)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209940)

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*.

Re:"perfect" is a bit of an overstatement. (1)

Desert Raven (52125) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209941)

The resolution is 600x800, but they don't say what the color depth is. 6x8 at 10" has got to be annoying, though.

Re:I want one ! But I am in Canada.... (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209942)

Ship it to me, then drive down and get it, presuming you live in Ottawa, Montreal, or anywhere in-between.

Did anyone notice that... (3)

Ineversaidthat (38835) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209943)

...they're IPO'ing next week?

Re:Is this thing a "loss-leader" for selling their (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209944)

The page says it's 800x600x16 and provides an XF86Config file. I have my desktop set to 1600x1200, but I was curious just how big my Netscape windows are. Well giving xwininfo a spin shows them as 855x767. That is pretty close to 800x600. So, for me at least, this thing would be tolerable as a simple web browsing device.

Re:What is the legality behind this? (1)

Paul Carver (4555) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209945)

EULAs apply to software. I don't think there is any legal grounds for a company to sell you a product and then dictate what you do with it. If they are only renting the device to you like Free PC was then they can impose conditions. If you actually buy it out right it's yours.

USB ethernet adapters (1)

Canis Lupus (1922) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209946)

A quick search on google found quite a few USB ethernet adapters. For example at 3com []

Now I really will have to work on a device driver.

Re:What is the legality behind this? (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209947)

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.

do you HAVE to buy their inet service? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209948)

reading the site's ad, it does kind of look like you must buy some kind of contract or service from them.

has anyone ever been denied the right to purchase the unit without service or hidden extra charges?


Hmm... Slow down now.. (3)

Merk (25521) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209949)

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...

Internal modem on ISA or serial? (2)

cfabe (161862) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209950)

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.

Linux flatscreen for $99-- NOPE! (3)

GI Jones (21552) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209951)

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

Re:Did anyone notice that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209952)

what means IPO`ing .... anwsser please

Woah! This wrocks! (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209953)

This looks *way* interesting! I really'd like to buy one of these, but I just bought a G4, and have a hard time rationalizing buying another computer.

In any case, that could be used for many things. It's good to see people thinking out there! :)

Re:Hmmm... (1)

echo (735) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209954)

Why not just boot up a kernel with USB ethernet support, mount the ramdisk as the root partition, and then run a minimal X server which connects via XDMCP to your main linux server :)

Could be a nice MP3 player as well (2)

tony clifton (134762) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209955)

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!!

Netboot options (1)

Baron (31644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209956)

I'd be interested in getting this thing netbooted. Hooking up a HD looks like too much expense and trouble for a $100 device. I know I could get it working with PLIP, but based on my past experience with it (slow, interrupt hell), I'd prefer to use the USB port for connectivity.

Does anyone know of a way to do a PPP-kinda thing over USB? Can two PCs be connected to the same USB bus and talk to each other?

Respect the hack... (4)

slothbait (2922) | more than 14 years ago | (#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.


Re:Ethernet (2)

cowmix (10566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209958)

FreeBSD 4.0 has support for a USB-10BT adapter.

for Ethernet, Why not run win9x or something + VNC (1)

x-empt (127761) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209959)

Since you can bridge USB to Ethernet, why not just use Win98 or something with some drivers that allow USB Ethernet? Since gettting it to work under Linux is definately quite a challenge right now?

VNC to an X session on a real linux box... all your problems are solved. (Except local stability, but you can always resume your X session(s))

I'm buying one of these and I'm gonna use my beta Dual Link modem from 3Com to bridge the Ethernet to USB :)


Re:Ubiquitousness (1)

number_six (160080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209960)

(180 mHz processor,

A 180 millihertz processor?

That's .180 Hertz!

I guess "geeks" don't know their SI abbreviations, either that or this machine has a knife switch on the side that you toggle back and forth to run the CPU clock.

Super-Nifty!! (CD-ROM??) (3)

tony clifton (134762) | more than 14 years ago | (#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!!!

Re:EULA on signup process. Never run the SW and... (2)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209962)

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.

USB Port (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1209963)

I wonder if the USB port is workable with any
OS. Their web site said that their was no
options to connect external devices...So maybe
they "cross wired" the USB port similar to what
they did to the HDD port..(Not that it would
be to hard to fix :)

If someone could figure out how to get sound
with line out (Stereo speakers), and Ethernet --
this would make one heck of an MP3 player..

it would make a MARVELOUS mp3 player ;-) (3)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 14 years ago | (#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


Re:What is the legality behind this? (5)

stripes (3681) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209965)

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).

Using the 16mb flash (2)

drix (4602) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209966)

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?


Re:Duh... (1)

whoop (194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209967)

The monitor port looks like it's about 8-10 pins. So someone with electronics know-how, crack that and make convertors to normal monitor plugs. You can't expect a $100 device to have a $1000 LCD monitor. :)

Re:Price Must Vary (1)

[Entropy] (87954) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209968)

Circuit City's web site says you can purchase products online and pick them up at one of their brick and mortar stores. They call it "in-store express pickup."

Wow, great Xterm (1)

bifrost (45323) | more than 14 years ago | (#1209969)

This would actually run FreeBSD or NetBSD really well since the USB Ethernet drivers actually work. I've got one hanging off of my second desktop and it works great, the box has been up for 60 days with no burps. Granted its only 6mbps because of the USB lameness, but hey you can't really go wrong for the cheap factor. I can even take the DIMM I pulled out of my powerbook to upgrade that thing.

I think I'm gonna go try to buy one...
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