Nicolas314

All my geeky stuff ends up here. Mostly Unix-related

Norhtec Microclient Jr

with 47 comments

Introduction

Norhtec is a company based in Thailand, distributing tiny PCs initially aimed for the embedded and industrially-deployed market. This tiny gem is called Microclient Jr, I will call it henceforth Junior for short.

Junior

For geeks like me, these cheap (less than 100 US$) boxes are ideal pieces of a home network for various uses:

  • File server: through Samba or ftp
  • SSH box
  • HTTP/HTTPS server or proxy
  • Network monitor

With a little bit of imagination, it is easy to imagine any kind of practical use:

  • Pierce corporate firewalls to reach an SSH shell directly hooked on the Internet, e.g. through https proxies. Having access to a bash prompt logged on a direct line on the Internet can be incredibly useful.
  • Leaving the box alive 24/7 allows me to run my own SMTP server. Using services like DynDNS, I can always reach my box by e-mail. This allows me e.g. to send scripts by e-mail and receive their output back (such e-mails are digitally signed).
  • HTTPS proxy with user authentication. This is useful to safely browse the Internet from a non-secure location such as an Internet cafe. Re-direct all your queries to your home https proxy and all your traffic is encrypted.
  • BitTorrent client. Need I say more?
  • The box also comes with a sound board (featuring audio input), which makes it a good candidate for VoIP traffic.
  • Best of all: this box comes with wireless capabilities. It could be used as a HotSpot, or just for wireless connection with my neighborhood e.g. to build a local network.

Hardware description

The official home page can be seen here:
http://www.norhtec.com/products/mcjr/index.html

A brief hardware description could be:

  • One 200-Mhz CPU (Bogomips: 400)
  • 128 Mb RAM
  • Diskless, fanless, small power consumption and totally noiseless
  • 10/100 Mbit NIC
  • Wireless support, with WEP and WPA
  • Sound in/out
  • VGA out, up to 1280×1024

Careful about one point: the unit is currently (June 2007) delivered with a US power supply supporting all voltages and frequencies (110-240V in 50-60 Hz). Trouble is: you cannot adapt the plug easily to European or other plugs. Since the plug is not at the end of a cable but part of the adapter, you really need to convert the flat American plugs to something suitable for you. No big deal but you will have to run through your local dealers to find that kind of traveller’s gadget.

Another point: the same unit is marketed under different names by other companies. Searching for eBox-2300 might yield additional pages.

Getting it to boot

Installing an OS on a diskless box

The box comes equipped with a Compact/Flash adapter on its front, which makes it the primary support for the OS. I bought a 2Gb Flash for 20 euros, which is cheap enough to be replaced in a couple of years if it wears out. Flash memory is sold for 100,000 to 1 million writes, which should be Ok.

I had trouble figuring out how to install an OS on a diskless machine without optical drive, but I finally devised the following method:

  • Get access to a Linux box with a USB card reader.
  • Insert the Compact Flash, it should be seen as a local hard drive like /dev/sdc
  • Download the ISO corresponding to the OS you want to install. In this case: a Debian Etch network install did just fine
  • Boot up a virtual machine like qemu, declaring the ISO image as bootable CDROM and the Compact Flash as main hard drive partition
  • During the install phase, the ISO image is seen as a CD and the Compact Flash as hard drive /dev/hda, which is exactly what you want. Perform the install as usual, preferrably a minimal OS version. Install the bootloader on the fake /dev/hda.
  • Once the install is finished, you have an OS ready on your Flash. Insert it into Junior and boot it up. Voila!

Of course, the install is performed while in the virtual machine which is very different from Junior. For adaptive OS’s like Debian, this is usually not an issue since all necessary hardware detectors kick in at boot time and re-configure the OS with the appropriate drivers. For Windows-based OS’s it might be more troublesome.

For my first install, I went in a more conventional way and formatted a USB thumb drive with a Debian install, booted from the stick and did a network install on the Compact Flash. This is actually quite easy to achieve:

  • Prepare a USB stick with the following files:
    • vmlinux
    • initrd.gz
    • syslinux.cfg
    • netinst.iso
  • Make the stick bootable using syslinux, boot the box from the stick and follow the installation steps. Your Compact Flash should be recognized as an IDE disk (/dev/hda).

For such an install, check out the Debian installation instructions from:
http://www.debian.org/releases/etch/i386/

All necessary files can be retrieved from your closest Debian mirror.

BIOS configuration

The BIOS is no surprise here. You need to configure it to boot on its primary hard drive (i.e. the Compact Flash once inserted), and optionally on a USB drive. You do not want to disable shared video
memory
, this will brick your box instantly believe me. You probably want to activate PNP support and ACPI.

If you bricked your box (it does not boot and does not respond to keyboard events either), you can still reset the BIOS to initial values by short-circuiting the battery on the motherboard. See below for
troubleshooting.

Running Debian Etch on Junior

Best OS for the task?

I have little experience running Windows so I did not try to install any Windows-based OS on Junior, but Nohrtec’s site is full of success stories with older versions used to make lightweight clients like kiosks.

Linux comes in many flavours, but once you have tasted Debian you cannot revert back to RPM-based distributions like Fedora, SuSE or Mandriva. I have not tried Ubuntu but Debian works perfectly fine, as I will describe here.

I have also tried to run FreeBSD but encountered too many issues for it to be practical. The OS installation ran fine, but once I got into sysinstall I ran into memory problems. 128 Mb are just enough to
load a complete list of supported packages, and then nothing else works. Since the OS stays on a Flash there is no way I am going to setup swap space there. I found out this is really a deep issue for FreeBSD who could hardly cope with memory shortage and died on me several times. The ports collection is really nice but compiling everything from scratch on a Flash does not seem like the best idea either. If I really wanted to run FreeBSD I would take out the Compact Flash, run FreeBSD in a virtual machine to get all packages, compile what is needed and prepare the Flash in one go. Running Debian in these conditions is so much simpler.

Debian Etch configuration

I installed a minimal Debian using the netinst ISO image, and then completed the OS using apt-get. First package you want to install is openssh-server, which allows you to reach your box from your desktop PC. At that point I disconnected both screen and keyboard from
Junior and let it run on network only.

Following are a few useful tips to make life easier on this box:

Changing prompt color

Change the prompt color to something else. When you have many windows on screen it is easy to start typing away and configure another box than the one you wanted. I changed my prompt color to bright red to make it obvious:

export PS1='[e[1;31m]h(u)-W&[e[m] '

Disabling IPv6

If you are not planning on using IPv6 on this box, disabling it completely might be a good idea to save on
RAM. You will also avoid some security issues if your router lets all IPv6 traffic through. Edit /etc/modprobe.d/aliases and replace this line:
alias net-pf-10 ipv6
by this line:
alias net-pf-10 off

Disabling extra virtual consoles

Another memory-saver is disabling ttys you do not use. Since your box will rarely be connected to a screen you do not need 6 virtual consoles, two should be enough. Edit /etc/inittab and comment out the last consoles, like this:


1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty1
2:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty2
#3:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty3
#4:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty4
#5:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty5
#6:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty6

Power off on button press

You probably want the unit to power off properly when you press the front power button. This is simply done by installing acpid, a daemon reacting on various hardware events on your box. The default configuration on Debian Etch comes with a single script to do just that. Now when you press the front power button your box shuts down the clean way with /sbin/halt.

Activating Wake-on-LAN

The BIOS offers no settings to activate Wake-on-LAN, but the network chip supports this feature. To activate it, apt-get install ethtool and use it with:
# ethtool -s eth0 wol g

The g option for Wake-on-LAN (wol) actually specifies that you want the machine to wake up on magic packets (containing its hardware MAC address), but there are other interesting options if you want to wake up on other network events. Check out the ethtool documentation.

To make this setting persistent, create a file called e.g. wol in /etc/network/if-up.d with the following contents:


#!/bin/bash
if [ “$IFACE” == “eth0″ ]; then
ethtool -s eth0 wol g
fi

Make the file executable with chmod +x wol. Now your machine will keep waking up on magic packets. From another machine, use wakeonlan or etherwake to send these magic packets.

NB: you can get your MAC address by running ifconfig.

Making sound work

The sound chip on Junior is a SiS7019. I found lots of relevant information from Axel’s pages about how to configure Junior’s hardware. You want to check out the links he provides (the pages are in German):


Axel’s Microclient Jr

Eventually I got a working driver from the LTSP Wiki:


http://wiki.ltsp.org/twiki/bin/view/Ltsp/SoundCards#SiS_7019

This is not just plug and play, you need to download the sources, patch some files, recompile a module and deliver it to your kernel module directory. The driver is OSS-style, not ALSA, which should not really be an
issue.

I have to say sound quality is just basic, nothing great, nothing bad either. For VoIP applications it should be largely sufficient.

Making wireless work

Wireless has been a real challenge on this box but I could finally make it work 100% in WPA mode. In summary, you need to:

  • Install the latest ndiswrapper from sources
  • Download an old driver for Win98 and install it
  • Configure WPA correctly

Getting the driver in

The chip is a Via VT6655. It is currently not supported by a native driver under Linux but you can survive with an emulator.

ndiswrapper is a Linux kernel module that encapsulates Windows network drivers and lets Linux users access all their functionalities. While this is a bonus for end-users like me who just want their hardware to work, it certainly does not encourage vendors to distribute open-source drivers. Check out the associated web site on: ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net

I found working Windows drivers on the following web site:

http://www.minipci.biz/support.html

Scroll down the page to the wireless section, the driver you want is VT6655. Inside the ZIP file is a directory called “windows98ME2000XP”, within which you will find these files:


891b23e6b475aebb26b8a07fef9d73eb VNWL5A.sys
17a711d4271db402dcfa59e8c4084ddb VNWL5B.sys
3918dc675b662e1c0434d53a8a450b86 VNWL.inf

They are shown here together with their MD5 signatures to help check out you have the right files.

Install the driver inside ndiswrapper with:
ndiswrapper -i VNWL.inf
Then load the module with:
modprobe ndiswrapper

If all goes well, dmesg should tell you have a new ethernet device called wlan0, supporting WEP, TKIP with WPA, WPA2, WPA2PSK. At that point you should be able to test out the chip e.g. by scanning your neighborhood for Wi-Fi networks:

# ifconfig wlan0 up
# iwlist wlan0 scanning

Getting crypto to work

Crypto support is now nicely integrated into Debian. To use a WEP-encrypted network, edit /etc/network/interfaces to look like this:

# auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wireless-essid [Insert your network name here]
wireless-key [Insert your WEP key here]

To use a WPA-encrypted network it would look like this:

# auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-ssid [Insert your network name here]
wpa-driver wext
wpa-psk [Insert your WPA key here]
wpa-key-mgmt WPA-PSK
wpa-group TKIP

Un-comment the first line (auto wlan0) if you want the wireless interface to be brought up at boot time, otherwise bring it up manually whenever needed with ifup wlan0. The settings provided here make use of DHCP, check out the Debian documentation for a static IP configuration.

If the defaults on your network correspond to the defaults for wpa_supplicant, you may probably just specify network name and WPA key.

An important point on which I lost several days: the driver for wpa_supplicant should be wext and not ndiswrapper, don’t ask me why.

For additional information about how to configure /etc/network/interfaces, you may want to check out the associated Debian pages on:


README.modes

Troubleshooting

If you brick your box, the only way to unlock it is to reset the BIOS to EEPROM defaults.

Remove the 4 bottom screws. Remove also the screws on the video plug on the back (one on each side), and the screw on the wireless antenna if you have one. Now you should be able to move the parts but be really gentle. Slide out the grey cover, starting from the back, and you should now also be able
to remove the bottom part of the box. The upper part stays soldered to the CPU so do not even try to remove it by force.

If you examine carefully the top part you should see the battery. You will not be able to get to it, but you can see where it is soldered because there are two plugs coming out on the other side. Short-circuit these two plugs with a paper-clip, keep it for several seconds. Try booting the box again, just plugging in a screen and keyboard, and see if you got it back. If you did not, short-circuit the plugs again for more seconds.

Re-build the box when you are done.

Credits

This page summarizes a wealth of information I gathered from the Web on various places. This is merely a compilation of various contributors, let them all be thanked for their invaluable help!

A special mention to Nohrtec for their incredible support. These guys know what service and dedication to their customers mean. A million thanks!

Support

If you are thinking about purchasing such a box or have one already and have related questions, your best bet is to try and get help from a Google Group dedicated to MicroClients:

Google Group about MicroClients

You will find me on this group, together with many other people far more knowledgeable than myself on the MicroClient topic. Come join the fun!

Slashdot Slashdot It!

Written by nicolas314

Tuesday 3 July 2007 at 9:27 am

47 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thank you so much for this posting! I just bought a Microclient Jr myself and was dissatisfied with Damn Small Linux as pre-installed on the CF card I got with it. With your help I was able to install Debian and get a minimal system set up. I’ll be installing this client later this week at a friend’s bar/club/gallery, where it will power an electronic anonymous “confession board.” I’ll be sure to write it up and send you a link.

    Cheers,
    Jason

    Jason

    Tuesday 17 July 2007 at 7:24 am

  2. Also want to relay my thanks for publishing this. Spent most of the afternoon following your instructions and my Microclient (that’s been sitting on a shelf for 9 months because Puppy was completely useless) has usurped my slug (Linksys NSLU2) as the heart of my home network. The increased performance is very noticable even on tasks as mundane as rsync.

    Thanks again,

    Mark

    Mark

    Sunday 29 July 2007 at 11:24 pm

  3. May I add my thanks for this article. I have been trying to get the wireless to work with puppy linux but haven’t had much luck. I will try your approach – but first I have to know where do I put the three driver files before using ndswrapper. As you might suspect, I am an absolute newcomer to Linux and need to be lead by the hand and with baby steps to get anything done. Can you help? I appreciate all the help I can get!

    John Leyshon

    Thursday 2 August 2007 at 12:32 am

  4. About driver files for ndiswrapper: put them anywhere you want, e.g. in a temporary directory. Once you have registered the driver with ndiswrapper, these files are copied over under /etc so you can safely delete the initial files or archive them. I am not really an expert on ndiswrapper though, you may want to try your luck on ndiswrapper forums.

    nicolas314

    Thursday 2 August 2007 at 11:30 am

  5. […] problems. I found DSL a little too hard to work with due to its LiveCD-like behavior. I discovered a great article by a man named Nicolas who loaded Debian 4.0 “Etch” onto his own MicroClient […]

  6. Do you have a benchmark of your micro client. I am very interesting in this kind of Green Pc but I need a benchamrk to known what I can do with it.

    Best regards.

    Waterbed

    Tuesday 8 January 2008 at 1:30 pm

  7. Sure. What kind of benchmark are you thinking about? If you could suggest a list I would be ready to try out and give you some figures.

    To give you an idea, my current configuration is: system completely loaded onto an integrated Compact Flash and home directories on an external USB drive, so any test related to I/O measurements will perform like flash memory and USB1 access. As for CPU or network measurements, you get exactly what you expect from a 200MHz CPU an a 100Mbit NIC: nothing top speed but good enough for most network-related tasks.

    nicolas314

    Tuesday 8 January 2008 at 3:38 pm

  8. Nicolas,

    I followed your instructions with qemu. I have used Puppy Linux to boot my PC, ,mount debian ISO as boot CD and CF as hda. Install with Debian to CF went fine (first time I got problems with gparted), but after trying to boot microcleint from CF nothing happened. Looked into CF and it was empty. What I did wrong? Debian installation went fine (no errors). I cannot remember whether gparted made swap partiotion on CF, but is that ok? Also grub is installed to the CF is that ok?

    Regarding to debian and CF, what is the frequency that debian is writing to the CF? Writing very freqeuntly to the CF seems to me not to be a good idea.

    pilotbabo

    Wednesday 16 January 2008 at 12:20 pm

  9. Ciao Babo:

    Something went wrong with your CF install, obviously. You should end up with real filesystems on the CF card, which can be mounted on your desktop machine with a card reader. You may want to look into the Linux live-CD you booted to see if it has all necessary rights to write to a CF card?

    About intensive writes to the flash memory: from what I can see Debian is really not intensive, but this will be highly dependent on the applications you run. I have a web proxy running on Junior now, with all data files (/var) on a mounted external USB disk to avoid thrashing the flash. The rest of the OS sits on the CF card.

    I would not care too much about that anyway: flash memories have now integrated algorithms to spread the load to the whole available surface to avoid concentrate all accesses to the same region. My CF card was sold for a million writes, I am pretty sure Junior will be outdated far before the card is overused.

    nicolas314

    Friday 18 January 2008 at 9:58 am

  10. help! I’m a newbie… I’ve installed successfully all the stuff… only soundcard doesn’t work! I’ve downloaded the driver from http://wiki.ltsp.org/twiki/pub/Ltsp/SoundCards/SiS7019_driver_source_2.6.zip then I changed the config.in with my linux src kernel that is /usr/src/linux-headers-2.6.18-5-486

    Then I ran:

    make
    and finally

    insmod sis7019.ko

    but the output is

    insmod: error inserting ‘sis7019.ko’: -1 Unknown symbol in module
    I tried also to copy the sis7019.ko file manually in /lib/modules/2.6.18-5-486/kernel/sound/oss and to load it through modprobe, but the result is

    FATAL: Module sis7019 not found.

    (even after update-modules)

    What can I do? Where am I wrong? I’ve tried also to edit the file sis7019.c at lines 1639 and 1640, as explained in the wiki, but unsuccessfull :-(

    Can you help me please? Thank you in advance

    Fred

    Wednesday 20 February 2008 at 10:19 am

  11. I’m trying to get soundcard to work, but I don’t know how to proceed, can you describe it step by step? Thank you!!

    Fred

    Saturday 23 February 2008 at 1:58 pm

  12. Hi, wondering if you had etch working on the jrSx, the lower power machine with no coprocessor. I was able to install and boot etch, but the r6040 network card does not get detected. thanks for any help on that, John

    john

    Friday 7 March 2008 at 3:24 am

  13. Nope. Sorry, I do not have access to a Junior Sx. You may want to try other live-distros to see if there is one handling your network card. That may give you some clues about which driver to use? Otherwise ask Norhtec, they have a great support team who should be able to help you with drivers and such. — Nicolas

    nicolas314

    Friday 7 March 2008 at 11:04 am

  14. That looks interesting, I want to buy one to
    Is it fast enought to run an X session at least with icewm or xface?

    Ishmael

    Saturday 8 March 2008 at 9:45 pm

  15. Yes, Junior is fast enough to run an X session. It may be slow by today’s standards but I remember running RedHat with KDE on a 200MHz PC not so long ago and it worked fine!

    To be honest: performance compared to today’s desktops is disappointing. Forget about browsing the web with Firefox, 128 Mb of RAM are not enough. You may want to try Norhtec’s MicroClient Senior, which sports a 500MHz CPU and 512Mb RAM, it should be much more comfortable as a desktop replacement. I have ordered one myself and will report on it here.

    nicolas314

    Sunday 9 March 2008 at 12:25 am

  16. Dear Nicholas,
    Thank you. I was able to configure wireless LAN in my linux box which I am using for my thesis work. Now I am getting a serious problem. I can connect to wireless with static IP but when I use DHCP I cannot connect. The last lines of error are as follows:
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67 interval 7
    .
    .
    .
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67 interval 20
    No DHCPOFFERS received.
    No working leases in persistent database – sleeping.
    done.
    Please help me solve out this error. Am getting late for my thesis.
    Please help.

    Regards,
    Pratik

    Pratik

    Monday 17 March 2008 at 3:30 pm

  17. Hi Pratik:
    Seems that your DHCP server is not responding. You may want to check with your system administrator about your MAC address being registered as official host for the DHCP server on the local network first.
    Hope it helps

    nicolas314

    Monday 17 March 2008 at 3:47 pm

  18. Hi Nicolas,

    Can I run NAS on this with external HDD connected?

    Thanks,

    Vasu

    vasu

    Tuesday 18 March 2008 at 2:58 pm

  19. You should be able to run NAS on a MicroClient Jr.
    Network support is excellent, and external HDDs are supported. Beware though, it only runs USB 1.1 which does not give much bandwidth.

    nicolas314

    Tuesday 18 March 2008 at 3:21 pm

  20. Thanks for the response. Is there any other micro client that would do the USB 2.0 that you are aware of?

    Thanks,

    Vasu

    vasu

    Wednesday 19 March 2008 at 12:10 am

  21. Yes, check out Norhtec MicroClient Sr:
    http://www.norhtec.com/products/mcsr/index.html

    nicolas314

    Wednesday 19 March 2008 at 12:27 am

  22. Hey thanks for this information… I have a problem though that maybe you or someone who reads this can help me with. I installed debian etch from netinst on a CF card by way of qemu. Debian runs without issue under qemu. However, when I boot the CF on the microclient jr., grub loads but debian does not. The Jr. just reboots ad infinitum. Any idea why that would be?

    Brian H

    Tuesday 25 March 2008 at 8:54 pm

  23. Hi Brian:
    Just an idea: there might be an inconsistency between the device names associated to your CF card between the virtual machine and the MicroClient, like /dev/sda on one and /dev/hda on the other. You need both to be seen as the same devices for the magic to work. Another idea would be to use disk UUIDs instead of device names to be really independent from device names.

    If this is really the case, you should be able to correct it by mending your /boot/grub/menu.lst and re-running grub on the CF.

    Just my 2c for today…

    nicolas314

    Wednesday 26 March 2008 at 12:53 am

  24. Hi.

    Iv’e tried this installation procedure on the MicroClient Sr and it worked perfectly! Before that I got convinced to try openSUSE but it failed at a point where it needed to update ‘mounting point / in /etc/cryptotab’, but I just used ext3 file system and no crypto.

    Ok, I have a question. When I installed Debian I installed it with a swap disk. Could this cause any problems? I diden’t want it to swap because thoungt the CF card couldn’t take it. Or ? …

    Brgds
    Tor

    Tor Suneson

    Wednesday 9 April 2008 at 10:54 am

  25. I ment: I installed without swap disk ..

    Tor Suneson

    Wednesday 9 April 2008 at 10:56 am

  26. Hi,

    Is it possible to boot the MicroClient automatically at power on.

    brgds

    SoK

    scostic

    Sunday 13 April 2008 at 10:13 pm

  27. Tor: yes you can run Debian without swap disk. It is not recommended but so far Junior has been running without swap for over a year and never showed any sign of bad behaviour because of it.

    scostic: the MicroClient automatically boots at power on. There is also a BIOS option about what to do when power is cut: boot again, stay down, or keep state as it was before power went down.

    nicolas314

    Sunday 13 April 2008 at 10:29 pm

  28. I was wondering: There must be many that has installed Debian on JR using CF cards.

    there must be many (like me) who aren´t so Linux skilled, to write the right commands.

    Isn´t there anyony who has publish a Debian, on Compact Flash card, with WIFI, sound ; Display etc…

    Who has a link to the CF Image?

    Ghost or whatever format is welcome

    Thanks!

    Jesper

    Jesper

    Tuesday 6 May 2008 at 4:46 pm

  29. Jesper: Unfortunately, there is no equivalent of Ghost on Linux filesystems. You can make a bit-by-bit image of a hard disk or CF card but if will only work if you dump that image onto another media that has exactly the same physical characteristics. You really need to create the filesystem using the appropriate tools, then populate it with OS files, then install a boot loader on the adequate boot sector.

    I could make a disk dump of my 2Gb CF card but this would create a bulky hardly downloadable 2Gb file, and would only be usable on 2Gb cards that are sufficiently similar to mine. Better download the ISO image (<600Mb) for Debian and install using a USB drive.

    There are many tutorials on the Net about how to install Debian from USB stick to hard disk or CF card. None of them are hard to follow, including the install instructions published at debian.org (and referenced here in this blog).

    Hope this helps

    nicolas314

    Tuesday 6 May 2008 at 5:02 pm

  30. I just ordered a MicroClient Sr with 1GB RAM and WiFi. Your notes will be very helpful when it arrives.

    BTW, I noticed that there is a native Linux driver for the Via VT6655 Wireless chip on the Via web site here:

    http://www.viaarena.com/default.aspx?PageID=420&OSID=25&CatID=2590&SubCatID=179

    That version (1.17, source-only) claims to support 2.6 kernels and WPA/WPA2. There’s an older version (1.06) on the Norhtec web site, but that one says it only works with 2.4 kernels (or 2.6 with ndiswrapper).

    Of course I haven’t tried any of this yet, but thought you might be interested. Do you think it’ll work?

    Maxwells Daemon

    Monday 9 June 2008 at 2:49 am

  31. I have not tried VIA’s native drivers, but their initiative can only be thanked! Even more useful than the few notes I have written on the topic is the Google group we recently opened about all MicroClient tiny PCs in general. See:
    http://groups.google.com/group/microclient/

    See you there :-)

    nicolas314

    Monday 9 June 2008 at 11:09 pm

  32. I wrote an article on the Microclient JRSX. located here http://bluegreenyellow.com/microclient/ This article was a great help. This was a first for me, an installation on a disk less machine.

    JustinKubicek

    Saturday 16 August 2008 at 10:04 pm

  33. Hi Nicolas and all! I have setup a wiki-like page were I provide some information on I dealed with the ebox4300/MicroClient SR and the files needed to make a bootable usb for installing debian on its compact flash card

    http://wiki.eslimasec.com/esliwiki/IamEBOX4300Post

    Dani

    Sunday 23 November 2008 at 4:33 pm

  34. How did you get the LAN drivers to work? I couldn’t get debian to recognize which driver it should use.

    scott

    Thursday 18 December 2008 at 9:24 pm

    • Did not do anything specific. Just loaded up the OS and it worked. Apparently the drivers are 8139too and 8139cp. Make sure your Debian version includes these?

      nicolas314

      Thursday 18 December 2008 at 11:39 pm

  35. Hi, I am interested in buying the Microclient Jr too but I didn’t read good things about the VorteX86SX (also known as the SiS550) performance so I can’t decide between that and some other AMD geode-based mini PCs.

    If you had some spare time could you please try running the LMBench benchmark suite (it’s available in the official debian packages repositories) and post the results? Thanks!

    Euni

    Monday 5 January 2009 at 2:26 am

  36. Thanks for the benchmark results. From comparisons I could make with other lmbench results the hardware seems to be about as fast as a 400mhz pentium 2, providing the results are the same between lmbench 3 and 2. It’s not bad at all, I was expecting the results to be much worse because of the lack of L2 cache.

    Now I found out that DMP released a newer Vortex86 clocked at 1ghz and with L2 cache (Vortex86DX) and that Norhtec is selling 2 mini PCs based on it, one named MicroClient Jr Dx (140$) that looks just like yours and another one that is entirely housed inside a tiny touchscreen monitor called the Touche Panel PC (400$). Can’t wait to put my hands on one of those!

    Euni

    Wednesday 7 January 2009 at 7:40 am

  37. Thanks for this article. That is really interesting.

    By now I booted my Microclient Jr to DOS on and played Wolfstein 3D. That is really cool!

    I plan to set up my device to play icecast online radio. Not sure what OS to chose though.

    I’m afraid of linux based OS because I’m MS VisualStudio developer :-)

    In any way, food luck!

    Dmitry

    Saturday 4 April 2009 at 4:11 pm

    • Hi Dmitry:
      DOS and Wolfenstein were cool during the glorious 386 era, MicroClients have a lot more to offer! Go ahead and install Linux, you won’t regret it. If you could cope with MS Visual Studio you should not have any issue with the relative simplicity and logic of a Unix install. Welcome to Unix!
      — Nicolas

      nicolas314

      Sunday 5 April 2009 at 12:31 am

  38. Thanks for the great info. I used it to set the wireless card, which previously was very frustrating.

    A second microclient I received from a customer had failed wireless connectivity, and I also used your instructions about disassembly to discover that the cable to the antenna connector had become disconnected from the board.

    Once again great work!

    Mike

    Sunday 12 April 2009 at 8:06 pm

  39. I finally set up Debian Lenny on the MicroClient (ebox2300).

    Not sure how slower it runs in compare with Debian Etch.

    The setup of the audio is too tricky for a beginner if rebuilding and patching etc…

    In case of Lenny the only thing I needed to setup audio was “aptitude install alsa-utils”.

    MPG321 player plays mp3 with 25% of cpu. Lenny takes 500 Megs of disk space.

    Thanks again for this article, Nicolas.
    I deleted Win98 :-)

    Dmitry

    Dmitry

    Sunday 12 April 2009 at 8:11 pm

  40. Hi

    Troubleshooting section is very confusing.

    To reset CMOS to get BIOS defaults, you do not need to open the box but you need a PS/2 keyboard & press the END key to achieve the same.

    See this link – http://www.compactpc.com.tw/files/The_Way_of_eBox-4300_loaddefault.pdf

    I think by trying to short-circuit batter leads, we loose battery charge.

    The above worked for me today but not the battery lead short-circuit.

    Mathew

    Mathew

    Sunday 1 May 2011 at 1:53 pm

    • Good tip! Thanks.

      nicolas314

      Sunday 1 May 2011 at 2:05 pm

  41. hey. thanks for the “debricking” advice – i made the mistake of setting the video settings incorrectly. weird how it doesn’t have a jumper for a reset though. again, many thanks.

    also, does anybody know about the watchdog timer on these? anybody know which modules to load?

    Makoto Takeuchi

    Thursday 18 August 2011 at 7:18 pm

  42. Hello
    For you interest:
    I’ve recompiled OpenWrt 10.03 x86 to boot from this device.
    See http://asha.com.ua/storage/ebox/readmeEn.txt

    ashanter

    Thursday 19 January 2012 at 12:57 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: