Finding the perfect ancillary travel device

Hackerbeach attendees at the upper dining table
Hackerbeach attendees at the upper dining table

As would be familiar to anybody who knows me, I’m always interested in new tech, especially when it’s running free software and portable enough to be in my every-day carry arsenal.

For the past month or so I’ve been looking at a few devices as a secondary to my laptop to carry with me. In a few weeks I’ll be joining those already there at third installment of Hackerbeach, on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

I wanted an embedded Linux system that could do everything. The scope of this device just kept getting bigger the more I thought about it.

It should: Continue reading “Finding the perfect ancillary travel device”

Sharp Netwalker Ubuntu Lucid Image

I recently bought a Sharp Netwalker netbook for daily use in class and on the go. One of the parts that I didn’t like was the crusty old Ubuntu 9.04 install that came with it. Thankfully that’s not the only option available to me. I read some reports online that booting from the MicroSD card is possible. I also found a really cool tool in Ubuntu called rootstock. There’s even an android port for it.

I wanted a recent Ubuntu distribution though, which I couldn’t find provided for me online. So I rolled my own, and am reasonably pleased with the results. All of the hardware works, although there are some annoyances, such as no battery meter in the GNOME notification area, and the wireless card isn’t supported by NetworkManager, although still works with iwconfig and wpasupplicant. Additionally, the hotkeys on the top are not bound to any programs.

So here it is.

UPDATE: Commenters brought it to my attention that the link I posted may not work for some people. If that is the case, please try downloading from here, or here. Thank you.

To install this guy, format an SD card with one big ext3 partition and untar the tarball to it.

$ wget
$ sudo fdisk /dev/mmcblk0 # Make a big partition
$ sudo mkfs.ext3 /dev/mmcblk0p1
$ sudo mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt
$ cd /mnt
$ sudo tar xvjpf ~/netwalker-lucid.0.1.tar.bz2
$ cd ~
$ sudo umount /mnt

Afterwards, eject it and insert it into the Netwalker(unless you’re doing all this FROM the netwalker). Then shut the system completely off. To boot off of the MicroSD card, hold both mouse buttons down, then press and hold the power button for 2 seconds. Continue holding the mouse buttons down until black text bleeds through the white ‘SHARP’ splash screen. The first boot should take noticeably longer than other boots. The default username and password are both ‘ubuntu’.

I’m currently updating the image to use Ubuntu Maverick, and will publish a new post once I have a working image.

Upgrading GuruPlug Kernels

I recently had more time to investigate my earlier problems with the GuruPlug.  The problem was discovered by some people on the forum.  The problem stock U-Boot is that is incorrectly reports the arcNumber.  The solution then, is to upgrade U-boot!

After a failed flashing attempt(don’t attempt to tftp flash u-boot.kwb from within U-Boot!) I needed to use JTAG combined with the included JTAG adapter.  To do this, make sure that the UART cable is unplugged, and the JTAG cable is plugged in(unplug/replug the USB adapter just to be safe). First grab the guruplug-installer package, then grab a known-good copy of U-Boot.

Continue reading “Upgrading GuruPlug Kernels”

Restoring GuruPlugs

I’ve recently taken ownership of a GuruPlug, and naturally the first thing I tried to do when I got it was to install Gentoo on it.  I first went to build a kernel using the GuruPlug patches on a vanilla 2.6.34 kernel, which ended up disasterous.  I applied the patches, however the kernel ended up not booting.

At which point I decided I wanted to try to restore the original kernel, so that I would at least have a working system with which to test.  Therein lied the rub.  The files posted here are completely broken. Continue reading “Restoring GuruPlugs”

AlwaysInnovating Touchbook Photo Gallery

The AlwaysInnovating TouchBook is an ARM-based netbook that also has a removable keyboard base that contains a second battery.  I was hoping that though one, I could experience what ARM hardware could bring to the traditional Intel-dominated netbook market.  Today I received shipment of the AlwaysInnovating TouchBook.  Here’s the unboxing and subsequent first-boot. Continue reading “AlwaysInnovating Touchbook Photo Gallery”