new to netwinder

Ralph Siemsen ralphs at
Thu Jul 26 13:38:39 EDT 2007

On Wed, Jul 25, 2007 at 02:04:49AM -0400, D. Hugh Redelmeier wrote:

> Rooting around, I found this mailing list.  It seems as if the best
> information on how to freshen up a netwinder is from March of last
> year:

Yes, that pretty much holds true today as well.  I've made numerous
attempts to build more recent disk images (than the "nw-9" one), but
always got stuck on some packages and ran out of steam.  My last
attempt was for Fedora Core 6 and about 62% of the packages built.
Recently, there seems to be a push to officially support ARM:

Kudos to Lennert Buytenhek for all his work on this.

> What is the best distro/version to run?  My machine came with
>   OfficeServer version 2.0 [Build 8]
>   kernel 2.2.14 - 20000612 on armv4l
>   NeTrom 2.1.16c
> I have to admit that currently this is a toy for me.  I may have no
> actual practical application.

You'll probably get a laugh out of the bundled FreeS/WAN package
for setting up netwinder-to-netwinder tunnels.  Beyond that, there
is little beyond a web GUI for system administration.

> I was surprised to find hints that NetBSD and FreeBSD might support
> the NetWinder.  But I'm more inclined to run Linux.

I see posts from time to time on the BSD lists, but have not tried it
myself.  The netwinder firmware has an ELF loader, or enough of one to
boot a BSD kernel image.

> My current guess is that I'd like to upgrade the firmware to 2.3.3
> (the latest, as I understand it) and the system to the latest NW9.
> Perhaps the rescuefs should be updated -- I cannot tell.

As I am sure you've read, we regrettably cannot distribute the firmware.
It shouln't be too much of an issue unless you intend to put in a new
large hard disk.  As for updating rescuefs, if it boots, then it has
served its purpose.  It was really meant so folks don't have to fiddle
with setting up a TFTP/NFS boot server.

The nw-9 image remains the most recent "official" release, but dated.
Another option is Debian/ARM, which is much more current:
I would not advise Gentoo unless you are very patient: bootstrapping
the compiler and glibc on a netwinder takes more than 24 hours of
uninterrupted compiling (if all goes well...)

> The rescue partition works: I used it to overcome the fact that I
> didn't know the root password (it was not "vnc").  Interesting that
> this minimal system doesn't even have mv or chmod commands but it does
> have both vi and joe.

Guess I had better fess up to that one.  I was using joe back then, and
there was "just" enough room on the disk partition to fit it in, so...

These days, a better rescue filesystem can be built with busybox.  We
can get a mostly complete system in under a meg.  The buildroot project
makes it almost effortless to build up a root filesystem with this.

I actually think this is the future for NetWinder "disk" images, too.
Certainly it's quite realistic to build up a web/ftp/email server with
current linux kernel, iptables, etc.  But that's probably another thread...


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