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Thread: Corel Netwinder

  1. #1

    Default Corel Netwinder

    HI

    I recently came into a rather cute little Corel Netwinder and I would like to know more about it.

    I found a web site - http://www.netwinder.org/about.html - but it seems all the image downloads are offline due to some Open Source restriction on distributing closed source code. Pfft.

    Mine is a Rev 5 so it's the "latest" version. it is working, rather noisily, and I've taken backups of the three partitions on the hard drive. I just booted it for the third time and was rather charmed at its "Welcome to Netwinder" announcement, made in a precocious sounding girl's voice. It didn't do that the last two boots.

    Does anyone have any links or info to share about it, other than what is on the netwinder.org site?

    Thanks
    JonB

  2. Default

    StrongARM SA110, 32-64MB ram 4GB or so hard disk ethernet, and reasonable video and sound.

    There were a few versions - one was supposed to be a webserver in a box, another a client/desktop/developer box (in their dreams - far too slow). The OS was a sort of mangled Red Hat with KDE and a custom web UI (webmin). It was one of the early web ui driven boxes along with the netpiilot and the like.

    I'd guess the bits they can't distribute are going to be Netscape, Citrix and Word Perfect 8.

    When it first came out it was novel in it's size but not much else. Same kind of era as the Cobalt Qube and other small, brightly coloured not-x86 plastic computers. Unfortunately it wasn't very fast, and got run over fairly effectively by the x86 juggernaut of the time. Some of the old Linux sites/magazines are probably the best place to look for articles from the period.

    The whole thing is really a bit of a sad story as I was told it - Corel wanted to build a box for VNC (which is still around today as a protocol) and management insisted it had to be in java. Because it was in java at the time it was unusably slow. Had they written it in C rather than bandwagon jumped they'd have had a product. Netwinder was an attempt to salvage something from it.

    On the bright side it gave us webmin, which is still going, although mostly superceded by more modern web UIs and of course the fact the Linux desktop system configuration is now UI based.

    Alan

  3. #3

    Default

    Funny thing is that the web admin feature is not installed on the developer machines (which mine is) - it was on the OfficeServer version. Comments I have read about them was they were ahead of their time, being an easy to use "web appliance". Mine is one of the latest versions (Rev 5) and has Red Hat with X and some really basic window manager. I need to upgrade the memory somehow, as it only has 64MB but should be able to handle 256 megs, given the right memory card. It needs 32 bit 144 pin SODIMM.

  4. #4
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    I've got one in the 1U rackmount enclosure -- it's the same funny-shaped system board, just in a 1U box with a power brick They will supposedly run NetBSD, there's a port for the netwinder. Mine still has the RedHat based OS image on it, I haven't done much with it yet.

  5. #5

    Default

    The website news page mentions a legal problem forcing them to remove the firmware from the website, and the images that contained it.
    First time I read about the Netwinder was in a french edition of the Linux Magazine, which I might still have somewhere...
    I have an Office Server desktop model with a 10G hdd and 128MB of RAM, and also a DM model missing the hdd.


    Found an ad in an old InfoWorld magazine, from Google collection of scanned materials:
    netwinder-ad.jpg

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks, but adverts aren't going to help me much.. I need Linux distributions.

    I've been trying to fit it with SSD via an IDE-SATA bridge and while it does boot and work (sort of), I am seeing lots of timeouts and other errors. I've discussed the problems a fair bit on the netwinder.org mailing list and it looks like this is a dead end. A shame, because the little 4GB conventional drive is noisy and probably about to peg it. I did perceive a performance boost with the SSD as one might have expected, but it is unreliable. I might blame the bridge board, but it seems to work perfectly well on a more modern kernel (as is running in my laptop), so we are left thinking there is some hardware incompatibility or unsupported mode of operation that is preventing the Netwinder from using it.

    I expect it will go back into storage soon. A shame, because otherwise it is a pretty cute little machine that runs silently with SSD and the fan disconnected (add the fan and hard disk and you need earplugs). Maybe I should try with a CF adapter..

  7. #7
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    If the CF card doesn't work, you might try a 2.5" industrial IDE SSD. I've got a number of them from M-Systems, other manufacturers made them too. They're *very* expensive new, but do show up used now and then. They come in small sizes, too.

  8. #8

    Default

    Yes, I considered them but so expensive (why??)..

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonB View Post
    Yes, I considered them but so expensive (why??)..
    They were marketed to folks who had to replace mechanical drives in systems that were critical to their business. Plus, they likely never saw enough volume production to result in any cost decrease.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JonB View Post
    Thanks, but adverts aren't going to help me much.. I need Linux distributions.
    That is the amount of info about it not present on the netwinder.org website!
    There are a couple of websites you could check on archive.org like http://linux.corel.com and http://corelcomputer.com

    I made a tar.gz archive of the contents of my Office Server's hda1 which includes /usr, as it wasn't on hda3 like the FAQ says, its size is 411MB.
    And an archive of the hda4 rescue partition which is way smaller.
    Lists of files from the archives are at http://lorezan.free.fr/netwinder/
    I can upload the tar.gz archives somewhere if you want.
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