[conspire] A NetWinder for Daniel

Daniel Gimpelevich daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us
Sun Feb 5 00:50:25 PST 2006

I was more curious about the Cobalt Qube, but the NetWinder is
interesting, too. IIRC, the voltage on the Qube's power supply would trail
off. I don't remember what was wrong with the NetWinder. What was it? If
anyone else would be interested in this machine, they're still welcome to

On Sat, 04 Feb 2006 22:37:20 -0800, Rick Moen wrote:

> 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]
>  http://www.us.debian.org/releases/stable/arm/ch02s01.html.en
> Supported by the official "DM" Red Hat distribution:
>  http://netwinder.osuosl.org/pub/netwinder/images/
>  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):
> http://www.netwinder.org/mirrors.html[7]
> "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:  
> http://codepoet.org/ram/
> [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
> OpenFirmware/OpenBoot.

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