My Recent Hacks

I get a lot of email from people who want me to break into hotmail accounts, clear their credit records, or otherwise make the world a worse place. No. Not playing that game, even if I had the background.

Thus, a page with some hacks of the sort I *do* engage in. Good, clean, fun. Stuff that caught my eye for long enough for it to get done - no easy task.

Making The IA-1 Useful

The Compaq IA-1 "internet appliance" is a dedicated-purpose box which exists to boot Windows CE, connect to MSN, and funnel money out of your wallet. They were recently on clearance at Tiger Direct for $99, so I bought one.

The IA-1 is also known as the eMachines "MSN Companion". Same box; it's a K6-2 running at 266Mhz, 16MB of compact flash, 32MB of real memory, a partially functional CF slot, 4 USB ports, an audio out, and an RF keyboard interface.

My goal? To get one running enough of a Unix environment to be useful. I started with some very nice instructions I found on the web for opening one. (Link to be provided real soon now.)

The basic idea is this: If you reset the CMOS, the machine (which is really a small, but ordinary, PC under the hood) will let you into a BIOS setup, which allows you to make crucial changes such as "boot from the CF slot first". Given a CF card with a minimal disk image suitable for booting the machine and configuring a network, you can then load a bootstrap loader and a kernel onto the flash. My solution was, rather than trying to squish everything into the 16MB image, to use NFS for all the actual filesystems, so my bootstrap partition holds crucial recovery utilities - but nothing else.

Coming soon: Kernel config files, kernel images, a CF image, and an image of the bootstrap device I used. Also, of course, screen shots.

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