[conspire] A NetWinder for Daniel

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat Feb 4 22:37:20 PST 2006

Daniel, Cheryl and I managed to get the NetWinder fixed, so it's up and
running again for the first time in five years -- and I remember you
being interested in adopting it.  It's yours!

Some notes:

Corel Computer Corp. NetWinder 275 DM[1]
Toshiba MK3205MAV 3GB PATA ("IDE") hard drive[2]
Motherboard based on Intel "FootBridge" 21285 ARM/PCI controller chip
  Motherboard version is 5.2 (as shown by "Board Rev 5255" in /proc/cpuinfo
  Intel/DEC SA-110 StrongARM 275 MHz CPU[3]
  64 MB RAM (single 32bit SODIMM)[4]
  1MB flash memory
  WinBond 553 PATA ("IDE") chip
  WinBond 940 (NE2000-compatible) 10Mbps ethernet interface eth0
  DEC 21143 "Tulip" 10/100 Mbps ethernet interface eth1
  IrDA port
  2 PS2 ports driven by Winbond '977 SuperIO
  9-pin RS232C serial port driven by Winbond '977 SuperIO
  EPP/ECP port driven by Winbond '977 SuperIO
  IGS Cyberpro 2010 Video Controller, 2 MB
  WinBond 9660 TV Encoder composite video in/out and video CODEC
  Philips 7111 video capture[5]
  Rockwell WaveArtist sound chip (SoundBlaster compatible)

Supported by Debian sarge:[6]
Supported by the official "DM" Red Hat distribution:
 I suspect that "DM" is reference to the developer-oriented NetWinder
 model.  In any event, the distribution is or was maintained by someone 
 named Andrew E. Mileski.

System is currently loaded with NetWinder DM version 2.1 build 12 (RH 5.1).
(Version 3.1 build 15 dated 2000-01-24 is the latest, and is RH 6.1,
with a 2.0.35 kernel.)

ftp.netwinder.org is gone, but there are mirrors (e.g., for firmware):

"NeTTrom" Firmware version 2.3.3 dated 2000-08-01 is the latest.[8]
Supports up to 256MB of RAM and hard disks over 30GB in size.
Unit currently has version 2.0.4.

[1] "DM" stood for Developer Machine, and these were offered for US
$868, new.  Press release: http://lars.nocrew.org/computers/netwinder.htm

[2] This is a laptop-type drive.  After upgrading the motherboard BIOS,
you will be able to use arbitrarily large replacements.

[3] It's pretty zippy for a 1998-era embedded CPU -- and even though my
old throwaway 32MB USB flash drive used the same damned chip for
error-correction.  However, it's important to realise that there is no
floating point unit.  FPU functionality is fully emulated in software,
but is very slow.

[4] This, not the absence if FPU, is the real Achilles heel of the
NetWinder:  At one time, it was possible to buy a replacement 256MB
32-bit SODIMM to use in the motherboard's single SODIMM slot:  These 
are no longer in stock anywhere; you'd be really lucky to find a 128MB
32-bit SODIMM.  All current SODIMMs are 64 bits wide, not 32.  In 
theory, you might be able to use a 512MB 64-bit SODIMM in hopes that the
NetWinder will decode it as a 256MB module.  People have reported
success with the same trick using 256MB 64-bit SODIMMs.  However,
there's no guarantee that the SODIMM or motherboard won't be destroyed
in the effort.

There are details of possible sources for 128MB 32-bit SODIMMs in the
NetWinder FAQ, off http://www.netwinder.org/.  Also, this page details 
some hardware hacking that can turn a 64-bit SODIMM into a 32-bit one:  

[5] The reason for the very hefty video hardware lies in the bizarre
origin of the NetWinder design:  It was originally supposed to be a 
video conferencing system running Java, but the CPU was too anemic, so
it was repurposed as a general-usage computer.

[6] I strongly suspect that Debian is the only fully maintained
distribution for ARM in 2006.

[7] After being passed through several corporate sponsors, the NetWinder
manufacturing plant was finally shut down for good in July 2001.  It
seems that pretty much all development for NetWinder ceased thereafter, 
except for Debian's.

However, before resorting to a complete system rebuild, you might see
what can be done within the existing RH-based framework, e.g., from
packages and images on the mirror sites.  I suspect the result will
still be 2001-era, but I could be wrong.

Before blowing away the existing build, so study it carefully, in any
event.  Among other special features, it has a bootable recovery partition.

[8] NetWinders have a programmable ROM environment reminiscent of

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