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Debian for WM8505 Netbooks (like that Sylvania one)

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segin Page Icon Posted 2020-10-05 10:57 PM
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There's a port of Debian 9.8 to those cheap netbooks based around the WonderMedia WM8505/VIA 8505 chipset.

https://github.com/lrussell887/Debian-for-WM8505-Netbooks

We should probably mirror the files here, just in case.

You'll need an actual Linux install on your desktop or laptop to prepare the boot media; Windows users need not apply.

Fun fact: My Sylvania clay pigeon supports SDXC booting with this (I'm using a SanDisk Extreme 64GB microSDXC card); I'm not sure how this is even possible. If you go to boot up and the "Loading OS Image ..." screen persists for a very long time before just booting into Windows CE, you need to reformat the FAT boot partiton; FAT16 or FAT32 are both fine. No long filenames can be used - it makes the boot firmware shit out (even if you delete the LFN files, the long names still persist in the FAT.)



Note: It is possible to
chroot
into the SD card using
qemu-user-armel
from your Linux PC.

Wi-Fi does not work under Debian. This appears to be fixable (just need to build the driver and put the right firmware file in the correct directory.) I'll update if I succeed in making it work. It's RT2870-based, so I'm going to adapt information found here: https://askubuntu.com/questions/641724/how-to-install-rt2870-rt3070-...

Edited by segin 2020-10-05 11:29 PM
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smb_gaiden Page Icon Posted 2020-10-05 11:58 PM
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Wow, impressive! Keep us posted please.
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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 12:28 AM
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smb_gaiden - 2020-10-05 3:58 PM

Wow, impressive! Keep us posted please.



+1

Thanks for sharing!

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segin Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 12:38 AM
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Note that the picture is after running "apt-get dist-upgrade" and getting everything updated to Debian 10, and then installing LXDM (the login manager is lightdm.)

The desktop itself is usable, that's about it. I can't recommend any modern browsers at all.

For a slightly-more usable (and colorful) command line experience, run (as root):

apt-get install zsh zsh-antigen
and then put this in your ~/.zshrc:
source /usr/share/zsh-antigen/antigen.zsh 
 
# Load the oh-my-zsh's library. 
antigen use oh-my-zsh 
 
# Bundles from the default repo (robbyrussell's oh-my-zsh). 
antigen bundle git 
antigen bundle heroku 
antigen bundle pip 
antigen bundle lein 
antigen bundle command-not-found 
 
# Syntax highlighting bundle. 
antigen bundle zsh-users/zsh-completions 
antigen bundle zsh-users/zsh-autosuggestions 
antigen bundle zsh-users/zsh-syntax-highlighting 
antigen bundle supercrabtree/k 
 
# Load the theme. 
#antigen theme robbyrussell 
 
# Tell antigen that you're done. 
antigen apply 
prompt='%n@%m[%T]:{%~}%% ' 
 
PATH=${HOME}/pkg/sbin:${HOME}/pkg/bin:${PATH} 
MANPATH=${HOME}/pkg/man:${MANPATH}

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Mjolnir Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 11:27 AM
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Nice work!
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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 11:52 AM
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I remember several years ago I read reviews trashing this device. Now it's time for its revival! Nice job!
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_dev-null Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 12:27 PM
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Awesome!


Regards
Stefan
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Mjolnir Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 12:43 PM
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Does your device lose it's Win CE settings - time, date, personal info, etc. when re-started after a linux session?
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Mjolnir Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 3:40 PM
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Found an interesting page where a guy had installed Bento linux (essentially Debian 6) to one of these devices after having first taking it apart - pretty good pics. Instead of booting from the CF card each time he says that he backed up Win CE to a storage device and direct installed the linux environment straight to the nand flash device being used as a hard drive. Some profanity in the blog post: http://gnome-bot.blogspot.com/2014/01/hacking-wm8505.html

Edited by Mjolnir 2020-10-06 3:42 PM
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segin Page Icon Posted 2020-10-06 10:22 PM
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Mjolnir - 2020-10-06 12:43 PM

Does your device lose it's Win CE settings - time, date, personal info, etc. when re-started after a linux session?


Doesn't appear to, but as I've never personally used Windows CE beyond a week ago... I have no idea what I'm looking for.

Being the newest member to this forum probably also includes me being the youngest (I'm 30.) As far as I can tell, Windows CE is mostly useless and the few pieces of software for it are absolute novelties or too old to be effectively useful. I'm trying to set up a Windows XP VM so I can install eMbedded Visual C++ 4.0, as trying to install it on my Windows 10 machine leaves me unable to select build targets (and thus unable to create projects to even get started.)
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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-07 8:35 AM
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segin - 2020-10-07 5:22 PM
...As far as I can tell, Windows CE is mostly useless and the few pieces of software for it are absolute novelties or too old to be effectively useful. ...


I wonder if other "old hands" here may not completely agree on this point.
For one thing, the Handheld PCs were never designed to fully replace the laptops or desktops. It's commonly misunderstood that the HPCs were the predecessors of the UMPCs or Netbooks which are really trying to be miniature full-blown workstations.
Also it really depends on what you mean by "effectively useful". 3D gaming and high definition video streaming, etc. have never been the true purposes of the CE machines, though.
Admittedly, the CE apps are pretty old but many of them are still fully functional and can fulfill lots of daily needs even to this day, e.g. PIM, notetaking, writing, scripting/programming, GPS, simple spreadsheet work, scientific calculations, music. That is, they are doing many jobs that PDAs used to do, but with a decent keyboard, more screen estate, and more expansion slots to suit a variety of peripherals.
I kinda like the limitations of the CE machines and their programs. They are fast (true instant-on), ultra compact, yet pretty efficient (compare Pocket Word/Textmaker and Office 365), and most importantly very durable (both in terms of product quality and battery duration). There is just a distinct minimalist taste to it, which I find refreshing also as a latecomer to the world of HPCs.
Being produced in the same era, I actually find my Jornada much more effective and useful than my array of Toshiba Libretto (slow, heavy, poor battery life).

Edited by hpcboy 2020-10-07 8:40 AM
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segin Page Icon Posted 2020-10-09 10:41 AM
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hpcboy - 2020-10-07 8:35 AM

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segin - 2020-10-07 5:22 PM
...As far as I can tell, Windows CE is mostly useless and the few pieces of software for it are absolute novelties or too old to be effectively useful. ...


I wonder if other "old hands" here may not completely agree on this point.


Most of the tools I've seen are things like pocket dictionaries and the like. The few things that show promise of being useful aren't because the rest of the world has simply moved on from the older protocols. The one true shining gem I saw, PocketDOS, apparently can't even be activated anymore. I'd like to connect to Gmail, to SSH servers, maybe some light remote desktop work, but the email clients apparently don't support new enough TLS versions or ciphering suites, the SSH clients available don't seem appealing (and StrongARM not being "ARM" yet using the same architecture type code in the PE headers has resulted in frustrations)

Quote
For one thing, the Handheld PCs were never designed to fully replace the laptops or desktops. It's commonly misunderstood that the HPCs were the predecessors of the UMPCs or Netbooks which are really trying to be miniature full-blown workstations.


I grew up with PalmOS and SymbianOS with Series 60 UI. I understand exactly the niche Windows CE is meant to serve.

Quote
Also it really depends on what you mean by "effectively useful". 3D gaming and high definition video streaming, etc. have never been the true purposes of the CE machines, though.


I wouldn't expect my old Nokia 6620, or Palm Zire to have done these things, I wouldn't expect a Windows CE machine to do it either, although those platforms had a somewhat better selection of emulation software available, and source ports. Alas, I can't even get HPCDoom to run, as it simply crashes as soon as I launch the executable (I'm gonna guess it's not really ARM but StrongARM/Xscale.)

Quote
Admittedly, the CE apps are pretty old but many of them are still fully functional and can fulfill lots of daily needs even to this day, e.g. PIM, notetaking, writing, scripting/programming, GPS, simple spreadsheet work, scientific calculations, music. That is, they are doing many jobs that PDAs used to do, but with a decent keyboard, more screen estate, and more expansion slots to suit a variety of peripherals.


Most of the PIM software has aged... poorly, and appears to have a lack of data portability. Pocket Office (Word/PP/Excel) is fine (for content created on-device, I'm not sure how well it'd fare with reading pre-2007 Office files brought over from the Internet.) I've not messed with the GPS options (they remind me of old dedicated GPS headend units), and I've not really seen any good programming tools (this is where I'd like to be enlightened - I'm trying to get eMbedded Visual C++ 4.0 going in an XP VM as I write this.) I've got issues with the UIs of the scientific calculators and music players (they're... bad. And aged poorly.)

If I can get a handle on Win32 GUI programming, I might make a scientific calculator with a not-atrocious UI (basically, just stick to the native platform look-and-feel. Pocket Word actually feels good because it doesn't try to impose some gaudy dated theme.)

Quote
I kinda like the limitations of the CE machines and their programs. They are fast (true instant-on), ultra compact, yet pretty efficient (compare Pocket Word/Textmaker and Office 365), and most importantly very durable (both in terms of product quality and battery duration). There is just a distinct minimalist taste to it, which I find refreshing also as a latecomer to the world of HPCs.


I'm not complaining necessarily about the OS itself (although StrongARM/Xscale and regular ARM using the same architecture type code in the executable headers leads to a lot of awkward disappointment)

Quote
Being produced in the same era, I actually find my Jornada much more effective and useful than my array of Toshiba Libretto (slow, heavy, poor battery life).


The CE side might feel a bit better with some better software for it. In the meantime, I'd like to see what I can do to improve Debian on here - Wi-Fi and audio would be my two top priorities.
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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-09 11:31 AM
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Actually I agree with you on many parts. To me the biggest problem of WinCE is the strict versioning restrictions (I'm not coder so please pardon my layman terms) and poor forward/backward compatibility. WinCE pro, WinCE 2000, CE .Net , PPC, WM ... A practical consequence is very fragmentary marketing and development efforts... Perhaps the original sin is not being opensource?
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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-09 11:50 AM
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And of course, there are quite a lot of not so useful apps for WinCE (as for any platforms).
But some do shine. PocketWord files can be saved in many different formats and not necessarily Word documents. It's great for quick writing and drafting. Its Outline view is also great to serve as a decent lightweight outliner. Of course Textmaker is even better, but it's not free and heavier.
I find the builtin PIM suite on the HP Jornada pretty robust and still very useful today, unless you want to talk about syncing with the latest Outlook (which I never use on PCs). I've learned the one on Sigmarion III is pretty powerfull too, but I have yet to try that. PIM by nature is not something that requires extrememly sophisticated programming or interfaces. This is what made Palm OS so popular back then.
SSH should work but I have yet to test that. I don't intend to use my HPC as the main email client because it simply can't. But I'd write longer letters and responses and save them as drafts. Of course here people have different preferences and habits of picking which tools they prefer.
I've used my Jornada to play audiobooks and it works just fine.
The trouble with PocketDos seems to be a historical matter (registration no longer available like many other programs) and not necessarily related to the platform itself. Think of using today's cutting edge software 20 years from now... Then again I would be overjoyed to see it running properly on my Jornada.
I was a huge fan of Palm OS back in the day. But lack of a usable keyboard kept turning me away from using the PDAs seriously for PIM and notetaking. The form factor of HPCs is still the way to go, despite (imo) the apparent failures of so many subnotebooks and UMPCs over the years.
I am beginning to learn a bit of basic C. I know nothing more than that. I just think the CE machines are still capable of that?
One of my dreams is to be able to write or port something practical and useful myself for my favorite machine (CE in this case). But this will be a totally different story.

Edited by hpcboy 2020-10-09 12:05 PM
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