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Some more newbie questions

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  • David Murray
    ... I m not studying electronics engineering, but I do quite a bit of amateur electronics work. I am quite a pro with soldering, even surface mount
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 24, 2006
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      > What the zipit is is a geek-toy. It is something to hack on to
      > learn something more about embedded linux. Unless you are studying
      > electronics engineering, don't bother with it.

      I'm not studying electronics engineering, but I do quite a bit of
      amateur electronics work. I am quite a pro with soldering, even
      surface mount components. So from that aspect, this will be no
      trouble for me. I'm just trying to figure out what all I'd be able
      to do with it, once hacked. I like the idea of a palmtop computer
      with a keyboard. They haven't made any such devices since the
      original Windows CE computers came out a decade ago. Being able to
      run Linux is also a plus.

      > Probably, but what will you do if you make a mistake and leave the
      > unit brain-dead?

      I'll go buy another one and start over, I guess. I'm no stranger to
      this type of thing. When I said I was a newbie, I'm only a newbie to
      this device, not hacking in general.

      > No, X is too memory hungry. The Zipit only has 16Meg of SDRAM.

      I once had a 486 laptop with 8 MB of RAM. I managed to optimize my
      linux distro well enough that I got X-Windows and Opera running
      decently. However, I admit that I did have the benefit of virtual
      memory, where the ZipIt would not have that.

      > is a bit-banged set of pins on an I/O port. The manufacturer of

      This I don't understand.. (I know what bit-banging is) but how are
      you able to boot from the card? Or does the kernal load from flash
      and everything else load from the card? Because if a specialized
      device driver were required to read the card, I don't see how you
      could boot from it.

      Here are a few other things I was wondering about:

      1) Can you read and write to the SD card? Or is it read only? If it
      is read/write, then you should be able to copy files over to it from
      the Wi-Fi, right? I was considering just buying a large SD card and
      soldering the wires right to the connector on the SD and leavnig it
      all internal. Thus increasing internal storage, but not having to
      mess with finding and buying that specialized socket. As long as I
      could copy files to it over the network, I don't see it being
      essential that the card is removable.

      2) Has anyone ever changed the font so that it could do more
      character columns? It appears designed around 40 columns. But 320
      pixels is enough to get 80 columns (I do this on my Commodore 64
      which has 320 pixels horizontal also) and if that font is too tough
      to read, you could always do 64 colums.

      3) Has anyone successfully mounted an SMBFS filesystem?

      4) Has anyone given any consideration to being able to run emulators
      for other platforms (I'm thinking Gameboy or Commodore 64 or Atari
      2600) 90 Mhz should be sufficient, barely. But the screen not
      having X would require some customization on the emulator, obviously.

      I think I'll be picking one of these up in the next week or so.
    • Stephanie Maks
      You can definately write to the MMC card. I have a webserver running on a Zipit, and it even keeps the log file on the MMC card. Details here:
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 24, 2006
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        You can definately write to the MMC card. I have a webserver running
        on a Zipit, and it even keeps the log file on the MMC card. Details
        here:
        http://va3uxb.dynip.com/

        I could be mistaken but I believe that 'booting from the MMC card'
        involves the bootloader in flash, loading the kernel from flash, but
        the root filesystem itself is on the MMC card. In my case, the
        bootloader, kernel, and root filesystem are in flash but everything
        else (programs, data, etc) are mounted at boot time and run directly
        off the mmc card.

        I don't know the correct definition of 'bit banging' but the
        interface basicaly reads and writes in a 'serial' fashion - one wire
        for writes, one wire for reads (plus a chip select wire and a clock
        wire). I have a feeling 'bit banging' means that the driver is
        reading and writing by directly controling the logic state of the
        specific cpu pins.

        As for running X or other graphical interfaces - I don't have the
        skills to do this myself, but I would suggest looking into the
        "Agenda VR3". It is a Linux PDA with 16MB of RAM and 16MB of Flash.
        It ran X and it ran pretty well. I think it used Tiny-X. I'm not
        suggesting you can run X on a stock Zipit, but with the MMC card
        modification providing lots of storage space, the Zipit's
        specifications exceed that of the Agenda VR3. So I reckon, if the
        VR3 could run X, then maybe the Zipit could too.

        The VR3 had a small screen as well, it was basicaly like a Palm
        Pilot. Very nifty device, probably ahead of its time. It had no
        keyboard, just a touch-sensitive screen.

        -Stephanie


        On 24-Oct-06, at 09.27 .44, David Murray wrote:

        >
        >> What the zipit is is a geek-toy. It is something to hack on to
        >> learn something more about embedded linux. Unless you are studying
        >> electronics engineering, don't bother with it.
        >
        > I'm not studying electronics engineering, but I do quite a bit of
        > amateur electronics work. I am quite a pro with soldering, even
        > surface mount components. So from that aspect, this will be no
        > trouble for me. I'm just trying to figure out what all I'd be able
        > to do with it, once hacked. I like the idea of a palmtop computer
        > with a keyboard. They haven't made any such devices since the
        > original Windows CE computers came out a decade ago. Being able to
        > run Linux is also a plus.
        >
        >> Probably, but what will you do if you make a mistake and leave the
        >> unit brain-dead?
        >
        > I'll go buy another one and start over, I guess. I'm no stranger to
        > this type of thing. When I said I was a newbie, I'm only a newbie to
        > this device, not hacking in general.
        >
        >> No, X is too memory hungry. The Zipit only has 16Meg of SDRAM.
        >
        > I once had a 486 laptop with 8 MB of RAM. I managed to optimize my
        > linux distro well enough that I got X-Windows and Opera running
        > decently. However, I admit that I did have the benefit of virtual
        > memory, where the ZipIt would not have that.
        >
        >> is a bit-banged set of pins on an I/O port. The manufacturer of
        >
        > This I don't understand.. (I know what bit-banging is) but how are
        > you able to boot from the card? Or does the kernal load from flash
        > and everything else load from the card? Because if a specialized
        > device driver were required to read the card, I don't see how you
        > could boot from it.
        >
        > Here are a few other things I was wondering about:
        >
        > 1) Can you read and write to the SD card? Or is it read only? If it
        > is read/write, then you should be able to copy files over to it from
        > the Wi-Fi, right? I was considering just buying a large SD card and
        > soldering the wires right to the connector on the SD and leavnig it
        > all internal. Thus increasing internal storage, but not having to
        > mess with finding and buying that specialized socket. As long as I
        > could copy files to it over the network, I don't see it being
        > essential that the card is removable.
        >
        > 2) Has anyone ever changed the font so that it could do more
        > character columns? It appears designed around 40 columns. But 320
        > pixels is enough to get 80 columns (I do this on my Commodore 64
        > which has 320 pixels horizontal also) and if that font is too tough
        > to read, you could always do 64 colums.
        >
        > 3) Has anyone successfully mounted an SMBFS filesystem?
        >
        > 4) Has anyone given any consideration to being able to run emulators
        > for other platforms (I'm thinking Gameboy or Commodore 64 or Atari
        > 2600) 90 Mhz should be sufficient, barely. But the screen not
        > having X would require some customization on the emulator, obviously.
        >
        > I think I'll be picking one of these up in the next week or so.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • M. Warner Losh
        In message: ... Yes. That s definitely the case. I ve just finished writing a boot loader for the
        Message 3 of 7 , Oct 24, 2006
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          In message: <A9E8CA26-3AF3-4B3C-9594-540C9CAF995D@...>
          Stephanie Maks <va3uxb@...> writes:
          : I could be mistaken but I believe that 'booting from the MMC card'
          : involves the bootloader in flash, loading the kernel from flash, but
          : the root filesystem itself is on the MMC card. In my case, the
          : bootloader, kernel, and root filesystem are in flash but everything
          : else (programs, data, etc) are mounted at boot time and run directly
          : off the mmc card.

          Yes. That's definitely the case. I've just finished writing a boot
          loader for the AT91RM9200 which boots FreeBSD off an SD card
          (including loading the kernel from the filesystem and mounting / on
          the SD card). The zipits boot blocks would need to be modified in a
          similar manner.

          : I don't know the correct definition of 'bit banging' but the
          : interface basicaly reads and writes in a 'serial' fashion - one wire
          : for writes, one wire for reads (plus a chip select wire and a clock
          : wire). I have a feeling 'bit banging' means that the driver is
          : reading and writing by directly controling the logic state of the
          : specific cpu pins.

          'bit bang' means that the driver is wiggling the bits itself, and
          interpreting the results rather than having some hardware to offload
          it to. In other devices, you write to the CMD and ARG to some
          registers, and the hardware deals with all the data transfer. You
          Then read the respons in other registers. Things get a little more
          complicated with DMA, but basically you just set the DMA address and
          go...

          : As for running X or other graphical interfaces - I don't have the
          : skills to do this myself, but I would suggest looking into the
          : "Agenda VR3". It is a Linux PDA with 16MB of RAM and 16MB of Flash.
          : It ran X and it ran pretty well. I think it used Tiny-X. I'm not
          : suggesting you can run X on a stock Zipit, but with the MMC card
          : modification providing lots of storage space, the Zipit's
          : specifications exceed that of the Agenda VR3. So I reckon, if the
          : VR3 could run X, then maybe the Zipit could too.

          Most modern X servers are huge, but have a small resident size when
          dealing with small hardware. This makes it kinda hard to run them out
          of RAM, but does make them viable in the OS can page in text pages as
          needed from some block device (MMC in the zipit case). The limiting
          factor here will be the ability to use some larger storage device for
          the backing store.

          The VR3 did this by, IIRC, just making X damn small. I don't know if
          the source to their X server is available. I know some of the early
          PDAs kept things like that closed.

          : The VR3 had a small screen as well, it was basicaly like a Palm
          : Pilot. Very nifty device, probably ahead of its time. It had no
          : keyboard, just a touch-sensitive screen.

          Back in my college days, my Sun 3/50 had 4MB of RAM and was able to
          run X11R1 and X10R2... But it did page the X server in off of disk
          (well, NFS) and it did have a swap partition to handle the dirty
          pages...

          Warner


          : -Stephanie
          :
          :
          : On 24-Oct-06, at 09.27 .44, David Murray wrote:
          :
          : >
          : >> What the zipit is is a geek-toy. It is something to hack on to
          : >> learn something more about embedded linux. Unless you are studying
          : >> electronics engineering, don't bother with it.
          : >
          : > I'm not studying electronics engineering, but I do quite a bit of
          : > amateur electronics work. I am quite a pro with soldering, even
          : > surface mount components. So from that aspect, this will be no
          : > trouble for me. I'm just trying to figure out what all I'd be able
          : > to do with it, once hacked. I like the idea of a palmtop computer
          : > with a keyboard. They haven't made any such devices since the
          : > original Windows CE computers came out a decade ago. Being able to
          : > run Linux is also a plus.
          : >
          : >> Probably, but what will you do if you make a mistake and leave the
          : >> unit brain-dead?
          : >
          : > I'll go buy another one and start over, I guess. I'm no stranger to
          : > this type of thing. When I said I was a newbie, I'm only a newbie to
          : > this device, not hacking in general.
          : >
          : >> No, X is too memory hungry. The Zipit only has 16Meg of SDRAM.
          : >
          : > I once had a 486 laptop with 8 MB of RAM. I managed to optimize my
          : > linux distro well enough that I got X-Windows and Opera running
          : > decently. However, I admit that I did have the benefit of virtual
          : > memory, where the ZipIt would not have that.
          : >
          : >> is a bit-banged set of pins on an I/O port. The manufacturer of
          : >
          : > This I don't understand.. (I know what bit-banging is) but how are
          : > you able to boot from the card? Or does the kernal load from flash
          : > and everything else load from the card? Because if a specialized
          : > device driver were required to read the card, I don't see how you
          : > could boot from it.
          : >
          : > Here are a few other things I was wondering about:
          : >
          : > 1) Can you read and write to the SD card? Or is it read only? If it
          : > is read/write, then you should be able to copy files over to it from
          : > the Wi-Fi, right? I was considering just buying a large SD card and
          : > soldering the wires right to the connector on the SD and leavnig it
          : > all internal. Thus increasing internal storage, but not having to
          : > mess with finding and buying that specialized socket. As long as I
          : > could copy files to it over the network, I don't see it being
          : > essential that the card is removable.
          : >
          : > 2) Has anyone ever changed the font so that it could do more
          : > character columns? It appears designed around 40 columns. But 320
          : > pixels is enough to get 80 columns (I do this on my Commodore 64
          : > which has 320 pixels horizontal also) and if that font is too tough
          : > to read, you could always do 64 colums.
          : >
          : > 3) Has anyone successfully mounted an SMBFS filesystem?
          : >
          : > 4) Has anyone given any consideration to being able to run emulators
          : > for other platforms (I'm thinking Gameboy or Commodore 64 or Atari
          : > 2600) 90 Mhz should be sufficient, barely. But the screen not
          : > having X would require some customization on the emulator, obviously.
          : >
          : > I think I'll be picking one of these up in the next week or so.
          : >
          : >
          : >
          : >
          : >
          : >
          : > Yahoo! Groups Links
          : >
          : >
          : >
          : >
          :
        • Stephanie Maks
          I am pretty sure that all the sources for the VR3 were released. Certainly most of them were. I have recompiled at least one VR3 program to use on my Zipit. I
          Message 4 of 7 , Oct 24, 2006
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            I am pretty sure that all the sources for the VR3 were released.
            Certainly most of them were. I have recompiled at least one VR3
            program to use on my Zipit.

            I just had a quick look at what I have archived on my fileserver at
            home, and it looks like there's quite a lot. There was a complete CD
            released and it might still be available online as an ISO. All the
            packages seem to be Debian based? They end in .deb mostly.

            As I said, I don't have the skills to do any of this myself - and for
            that matter, I don't have the time or motivation either. The command-
            line is all I need on my Zipit. However, if someone else wants to
            have a look at the VR3 stuff, I can dig up what I have and make it
            available.

            -Stephanie


            On 24-Oct-06, at 15.33 .01, M. Warner Losh wrote:

            >
            > Most modern X servers are huge, but have a small resident size when
            > dealing with small hardware. This makes it kinda hard to run them out
            > of RAM, but does make them viable in the OS can page in text pages as
            > needed from some block device (MMC in the zipit case). The limiting
            > factor here will be the ability to use some larger storage device for
            > the backing store.
            >
            > The VR3 did this by, IIRC, just making X damn small. I don't know if
            > the source to their X server is available. I know some of the early
            > PDAs kept things like that closed.
            >
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