Tag Archive: linux

I’ve been trying to get some version of Linux on my Libretto 50CT for quite some time now.  One of my conditions for this is that I wanted it to run off of a compactflash card instead of the clunky old 800MB hard drive that originally came in the Libretto.  There is a problem with this though.  I’ve been running into a wall trying to use a 4GB CF card because of LBA mode or some other layer of translation.  For some reason, fdisk can’t come to grips with this.  Most reasonable Linux distributions need at least a gig of disk space but I searched out one that did not….  Damn Small Linux.

DSL only needs 200mb minimum which is perfect since I happen to have a 256mb CF card laying around.  I popped it into my Pentium 133 desktop system with a CF-IDE adapter.  I went into the BIOS to make sure to auto-detect the card in “NORMAL” mode instead of “LARGE” or “LBA” modes.  Then I used a Redhat Linux 5.0 disk I had laying around to fdisk the partition.  I created one big partition that took all of the space, made it bootable and saved/quit.

After that, I popped in the DSL 4.1.10 ISO-LINUX live CD.  It booted up into the gui and I ran:

sudo /usr/sbin/dsl-hdinstall

I made sure to run that from a black xterm so I could see the text.  At the end, when it said it wanted to reboot to finish the setup, I stopped the computer and popped the CF card into my Libretto and booted it up there.

It booted up just fine but when it got to X it was REALLY ugly and the mouse didn’t work.  I hit “ctrl-alt-del” to pop out of X.  At the prompt I ran:


I made the following choices:

  • Xvesa
  • no USB mouse
  • no mouse wheel
  • ps2 mouse
  • 2 buttons
  • 640×480 pixel
  • 16-bit color depth
  • no “choose own dpi”
  • us keyboard

After all that, I restarted X and it appeared picture perfect with a functioning mouse.

Next priority was network access so I popped in a Xircom card I’ve been toting around forever.

There is a nice control panel in DSL that allowed me to configure it pretty quickly.

Next was wireless access but the problem is that there is no support for WPA in the 2.4 kernel or in any 16-bit PCMCIA cards that will actually work in this laptop.  Luckily there were quite a few 16-bit PCMCIA wireless cards available.  I have a few but I happened to chose an Orinoco Gold Wireless PC Card since it’s a nice robust card and I have a couple laying around.

Being a security-minded individual, the best solution I can think of is implementing a wireless network with the following parameters:

  • a hidden essid
  • MAC filtering
  • WEP
  • 802.11B only
  • attached to my outside DMZ

Beyond that, I’m at a bit of a loss.  It’s still a WEP network afterall and there is only so much that can be done to secure it.  But alas, I snagged on of my extra WRT54G’s and configured it with those parameters in mind and everything is pretty much up and running flawlessly.  Time to rebuild another battery I guess 🙂

It was recently my birthday and my folks consulted my Amazon wish list for gift ideas.  I have a pile of books, movies and other tech goodies on there but out of it all, they chose these two movies as part of the package.  Not wanting to bore my wife with these, I had to wait until she was out of town to watch them.  She humored me with Pirates of Silicon Valley.  But I didn’t expect these to be nearly as entertaining for someone not grossly obsessed with the tech industry.  I would still stick with my original call.  These movies are not likely wife-friendly.

I started out with Triumph of the Nerds.  I have to say that I found this movie thoroughly enjoyable from the start to finish.  At this point, it’s a little dated but still very relevant.  Bill Gates was only worth around $11B at the time of this movie for instance so it was probably much easier to capture the great interviews with him at that point in time.  Steve Jobs still looks pretty young and lively in this movie as well.  Some of these founding fathers of the tech industry are just as outrageous as ever.  Steve Ballmer for instance spewed out a few lines that were just hilarious.

This movie also has an interesting and just plain bizarre host, Bob Cringely.  Bob claims that he was Apple employee number 12 and was offered stock back in those days because the company was short on cash.  Unfortunately for him, he held out for the cash and apparently his mother has never let him live it down.  🙂  The movie is broken up into three parts but you’ll probably just want to plow through it all at once if you are anything like me.  I would consider this movie as the perfect follow up to Pirates of Silicon Valley.  If you want a much more accurate portrayal of what actually happened, this is your movie.  That being said, I certainlywould not skip Pirates of Silicon Valley.  It’s also an excellent movie and not HORRIBLY inaccurate.  Just a little dolled up for Hollywood.

The second movie I got was Revolution OS.  If you are not a Microsoft hater, I might consider skipping this one.  There is an undertone throughout the whole movie that Linux can do no wrong.  That being said, there are several great interviews in there that are worth seeing.  Interviews with Richard Stallman of FSF, Linus Torvalds(creator of the kernel) and Larry Augustin of VA Linux.  They touch on the wild Linux IPO’s, open source vs free software camps, pivotal decisions by Netscape and the Apache web server.

If you have been into Linux for a while, you might not learn or gain much from this movie but if you are new to Linux and want to learn about it’s roots, it’s not a bad place to start.  Just a word of advice though, don’t drink all the kool aid this movie is spitting out.  Pay close attention and you will see some of the ways that clever video editing is being used to put new context into what the interviewees are actually trying to say.  Also, pay close attention when they are talking about the IPO’s.  You’ll notice that they BRIEFLY flash onto the screen the post earnings announcement stock prices.  You can barely even read the message, let alone comprehend it and see that the stocks when from the mid $200’s to less than $5 overnight.

This movie brought back some not so pleasant memories.  I was there myself, right in the thick of it.  I worked for a start up company that was producing a Linux-based product.  We were trying to raise funding for ourselves and had tangible network appliances that we were ready to release.  After Redhat and VA Linux tanked, no one would touch our company with a 10-foot pole.  This eventually led to us shutting the doors and we weren’t the only ones that suffered.  I personally believe that the tech crash was catalyzed by those two specific companies.  Having that footnote glossed over annoys me a bit and reminds me why I didn’t touch Linux for a good 3-4 years after that period of time.

My first Linux install

I was reminiscing with uglyman of The Airlock last night thinking back to the first time I tried Linux. It’s been nearly 20 years since I tried Linux for the first time. I was just a kid so I didn’t really understand Unix concepts or what I was playing with but my dad and I had stopped by a shareware store in Bellevue. Back in those days, there were actually brick and mortal stores in this area that near exclusively thrived off of putting shareware on 5.25″ floppies and selling it.

I saw this expensive piece of “shareware” (little did I know). I was on a CD and was $29 if memory serves me.  At the time, we didn’t have a bunch of old computer hardware laying around.  I had a computer and my dad had one.  At the time I was running a Pentium 60Mhz engineer sample that I scored from our local monthly computer swap meet that rotated between Kent Commons, Everett Holiday Inn and Bremerton.  We paid $1000 for that motherboard, cpu and the 16mb of ram on it but at the time it was cutting edge.  I had a full height 5.25″ 1GB scsi hard drive(that we bought USED for $1,000) and of course a cd-rom drive.

The CD we bought was Yggdrasil Plug’n’Play Linux.  I’m not sure what intrigued me about it.  Maybe that it was an alternative operating system to Mac and Windows which were the only two systems I knew.  Maybe the words plug’n’play which even predated the new term coined by experienced MS users, “plug’n’pray”.  Whatever the case, we bought it.  The minimum system requirements were a 386 with 8mb of ram and a CD-ROM.  I figured I had this beat so why not?  I didn’t know what it meant at the time but Yggdrasil was based on a .99 kernel.

The most remarkable thing about Yggdrasil was that it was the first Linux live cd.  Pretty sure the cd wasn’t bootable because this was before the days of bootable IDE CD-ROM’s supported in bios.  Instead, included with Yggdrasil was a boot disk that would load the cd drivers and eventually you would be presented with a boot menu giving you the option to install it or run it live.

I chose to run it live.  It was pretty slow.  It probably took 5 minutes to get to an X windows screen but I remember being blown away that I could run a full gui OS without even installing it.  Ultimately, I played with it once or twice but eventually didn’t have much need for it since I didn’t understand how to use any of the applications(such as vi, latex, etc) and I wasn’t really savvy or motivated enough at the time to get my modem working in Yggdrasil to connect to the internet (through my shell account provider).

My first taste of Linux was brief but it certainly planted the seed for delving into it later with both feet around 1998 when Redhat was maturing.  I’d love to see some comments from anyone who had more experience with Yggdrasil or an even older distro.

So you have U-Booted your Zipit Z2?  Great!  Now you are ready to exploit one of the biggest advantages of moving from blob to U-boot…  Building your own kernel.

First off, you need to have built a cross-compiler of some sort to build the kernel.  I have posted directions for my version here in my post about building U-Boot for the Z2.  After that, you will need to make sure u-boot-tools is installed on your system.  On Gentoo you can use portage to install it but you will need to unmask the package.  To unmask that package on Gentoo, add ACCEPT_KEYWORDS=”~x86″ to your /etc/make.conf.  Then type “emerge u-boot-tools”.

Next, download the latest version of the Zipit kernel from here:


To start off, I’m going to use Mozzwald’s suggested .config file.  You will need to rename it .config and put it in the base directory of your kernel.  Next, replace the <base_kernel_dir>/arch/arm/mach-pxa/z2.c with a bleeding edge one if desired.  Mozzwald and Sweetlilmre both have been diligently hacking away at that file so you could ask in the irc.freenode.net #zipit-dev channel to obtain the latest version or use this z2.c for now.

Now for the fun stuff.  You can use a make menuconfig command as follows to add your own customizations to the kernel:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- menuconfig

Now it’s time to build the new kernel:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- -j9 uImage

Now, if you built a modular kernel, you will need to build the modules and stick them somewhere:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- modules
make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- INSTALL_MOD_PATH=/where/to/drop/modules modules_install

After this is done, your new kernel should be sitting there for you ready to go in the arch/arm/boot directory and your modules are wherever you put them.  Just copy the uImage and modules to the appropriate locations on your Zipit’s SD card and you will be good to go.

It seems that all of the Linksys WRT54G’s that I’ve come across for a good price lately are the WRT54G-TM variant.  The TM stands for T-Mobile.  In all honesty I’m not sure how the T-Mobile hot spot functionality works.  I don’t really care either.  What I know is that this router is actually an excellent candidate for a DD-WRT installation.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s even better than the WRT54GL because this one has 32MB of ram opposed to the 16MB on the GL version.  The only small downside on the WRT54G-TM is that you’ll have to jump through a couple more obstacles to make it run DD-WRT.  Don’t let this put you off at all!  There are excellent instructions out there and I’m going to give you a short overview as well.  First off, here are the official instructions for putting DD-WRT on the WRT54G-TM.

If you plan to load this firmware on your WRT54G-TM, I highly recommend using Internet Explorer on Windows.  Everything seems to go the smoothest using this configuration.  When I’ve tried Firefox on my Mac I’ve had trouble and the same goes for Safari.  Just save some pain and use IE if you have access to it.  Now for the fun stuff:

  1. Download the latest version of DD-WRT for the WRT54G-TM.  Run a quick search on this page to find it.  http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/support/router-database.  While you are there, grab the tftp program and the CFE updater binary.
  2. Set your Windows machine to the static ip  While you are in there, click advanced and add a second ip
  3. Pick a port 1-4 and plug it into your computer’s ethernet port.
  4. Do a hard reset on your WRT54G-TM to put it back to factory settings by unplugging the router, holding the reset switch on the back of the router, plugging it in and keeping holding the switch for 30 seconds.
  5. Log into your router at  No username, password is admin.
  6. Click administration, then update firmware.  Update the firmware with the CFE binary file.  That should go pretty quick and say something like “Upgrade succeeded”.
  7. Wait….  While you are waiting, bring up a command prompt and ping -t  When you get a response to your pings, you can quit waiting and move to the next step.
  8. Fire up the TFTP client and type in for the server IP and for the file put in the location of the ddwrt.v????  firmware file.  Hit upgrade and wait.
  9. Now go to in your web browser.  You should see a screen prompting a user password change.  Now is a great time to set your root password.

That’s it!  It sounds a lot harder than it actually is.  Post some comments on your own experiences with the WRT54G-TM.

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