Sylvania Netbook Debian Linux

We found this Sylvania netbook in someone’s trash about a week ago and when I got it, it didnt work and wouldnt even try to charge. Upon further inspection, all that was wrong with it was just power connector that broke away  from the solder joint inside of the netbook. It originally ran Windows CE 6 and has a WM8505 SoC processor inside. As you can tell Im not a windows person at all, and started looking around for a good linux system that would run on it. I found a ton of android versions for it, but I was wanting true debian version that I could run directly from the SD card, just like the Raspberry Pi. Then I could leave android installed on the internal flash so others could use the thing also for their ebook readers and such.

Ok, I dont really have my own distro like everyone else, but I discovered a way to put a full debian distro on it using these steps:

First, you’ll need to download the two parts you’ll need for getting the system to boot on the netbook and OS from the raspberry pi. You’ll need the Linux kernel files for the netbook:

http://code.google.com/p/yus-repo/downloads/detail?name=wm8505-kernel-3.0-fatpart.tar.gz

And the main OS from the raspberry pi. You’ll want the softfloat version because the hardfloat wont work on the older arm6 chips.

Torrent 2013-05-29-wheezy-armel.zip.torrent
Direct download 2013-05-29-wheezy-armel.zip
SHA-1 d42d913fb4f49b351ef865edcf318f47ae04edca
Default login Username: pi Password: raspberry

There’s the torrent and primary download from the raspberry pi site itself. Just follow the instructions here to copy the OS to an SD card, just as you would any raspberry pi system.

http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup

Then unplug the SD card and plug it back in so the two partitions show up on the SD card. You’ll see that the larger partition doesnt take up the full space on the sd card, that’s fine, it’ll be fixed on the first boot. The smaller partition that has the boot files, just extract the fatpart.tar.gz folders into that partition so it shows up with the tools and script folder on the base disk part.

From there, just unmount the SD card partitions and insert the SD card into the netbook, and it’ll boot up right off of the SD card if everything is set up correctly. Then it will boot to a blue screen with options to change locale, password, keyboard layout, and expand SD card space. You’ll want to select the expand option so it uses all of the empty space on the SD card. Just set up all of your options and select finish, and let the netbook reboot like it asks.

This version doesnt have any sound support yet, but everything else works fine, Im currently working on finding a kernel module that would work, but having a bit of difficulty atm due to unable to find much about the sound card.

It will boot right up to the desktop and everything should work fine.

If you get the issue of when you try to shut down or reboot from lxde menu, it may ask for password, and the dialog will dissappear before you can enter anything. An easy fix for that problem is right here:

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=141&t=60561

But instead of:

gksu gedit /usr/share/polkit-1/actions/org.freedesktop.consolekit.policy

you want:

sudo leafpad /usr/share/polkit-1/actions/org.freedesktop.consolekit.policy

or

sudo nano /usr/share/polkit-1/actions/org.freedesktop.consolekit.policy

From then on, the system will run all programs that are available to the raspberry pi, which is an insanely large list. Everything should be able to be updated and such with no issues at all and install everything just fine.

After this is all done up and set up how you want it, you should be able to interchange the SD card between the netbook and the raspberry pi with no effort.

Just a warning, if you fully update everything, and due to the low amount of RAM in the netbook, it’ll slow down the netbook really badly, so best thing that Ive found is just to do “sudo apt-get update” and install/uninstall all of the stuff you want/dont want and leave it be.

EDIT: After discovering that the softfloat version is being discontinued, I searched for a mirror site for those who need the images still, which is here:

http://www.mirrorservice.org/sites/downloads.raspberrypi.org/images/debian/7/2013-05-29-wheezy-armel/

And updated the download links in the guide. If the links die again, just google for “2013-05-29-wheezy-armel.zip.torrent” and it’ll show a bunch of mirrors with the files needed for this guide.

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13 Responses to Sylvania Netbook Debian Linux

  1. SDSE78 says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I’ve been trying to figure this out for over a year during my free time. I’ve had no luck, but I still have my Sylvania Netbook as I knew eventually someone would figure this out. I can’t wait to try this! I’ll be sure to post back to let you know if I had success or not. On a side note: Can you tell me the Linux commands to install/uninstall applications? I definitely don’t want my Netbook bogging down once this actually works. Cheers!

    • cae2100 says:

      it’s debian, so it’s the same as if you use ubuntu. to install or uninstall stuff, just use apt-get command, like “sudo apt-get install netsurf” or “sudo apt-get remove netsurf”. If you need any help with figuring out the commands for different things in the systems, just look up how to do it with ubuntu, ubuntu is actually built from debian linux, so you can use most of the same commands. sudo command is just telling the computer to run the command as administrator, like right clicking in windows and clicking run as administrator, but command line version in linux.

      To make it easier, do these two commands at command line when you first get the system set up, just paste what’s in the quotes:

      “sudo apt-get update”
      “sudo apt-get install synaptic”

      apt-get update updates the software list from the main servers so it knows where everything is at and what is available, and synaptic is a gui for debian based distros to install/uninstall stuff. I have it installed on mine.

      • SDSE78 says:

        Fantastic! I guess you’re not a ghost after all. I’m an old school Linux user, however I spend too much time on my MacBook and find myself forgetting command line all too often. Thanks for the examples those will really help. I can’t wait to bring my Sylvania system back to life. I knew the $99 I paid for it at CVS pharmacy would work out someday. BTW, I’m also a Pi user. 😉

      • cae2100 says:

        awesome, I like having the SD card set up like this because once you get everything set up on the netbook, you can take the SD card out, stick it in the rpi and you have everything on the bigscreen and with a little more processing power for those big jobs.

        Also, ewww, macintosh. 😛 Father’s a mac nut also, but he’s still using an old G3 iMac that I think is about on it’s last leg, so Ive been trying to ease him into linux also since he’s one of those type of people that can crash a windows computer within an hour, no matter how much you have it locked down. I have one in the basement that I used to test ppc linux kernels with, and see how much I can get it hacked.

        And if you really mess with it, there is terminal in osx also and uses the same commands as linux. So there’s not much of a difference other than applications folder being in root directory.

  2. Gillman says:

    This is fantastic. I suspected it could run the same linux as my Raspberry Pi (just got my Pi camera in the mail this afternoon), but I could never find the time to play with it. I only wish I’d bought a whole bunch more than the two I got when Newegg was selling them for $30

    • SDSE78 says:

      What was Newegg selling for $30?

      • cae2100 says:

        camera module, it’s a tiny webcam that plugs into the camera interface slot on the rpi itself rather than hooking it up through usb. people can use it for stuff like robotics and such without the trouble of using up extra usb ports.

    • cae2100 says:

      I didnt know the cameras were even out or that a place like newegg actually sold stuff for the rpi. 😛

      Edit: I looked around newegg and couldnt find a link for the camera module, only two raspberry pi systems, the everything packages with keyboard and such, and one case, but no camera.

      • Matt says:

        He was talking about the Sylvania Notebook. I bought mine for 30 bucks stuck it away, and bookmarked your guide a long time ago. I need a cheap little ssh terminal so about to give it a go!

      • cae2100 says:

        I hope the steps above work for you, I know my netbook still works great, but I dont really use it, so giving it to eben when I meet up with him at ny again. I never got the audio chip working, which battery detection and such is based in the audio chip, but other than that, it works fine.

  3. JDZero says:

    Awesome tried it out just got the setup working. I have not tried out the wifi yet. I used Ubuntu to set up the SD card and Windows to download the files. Do you know any other distros that work better? I know that might be asking for to much. Thanks a lot thou.

  4. JDZero says:

    I cant seem to get the wifi working. For some reason the Wifi Config program only show 3 lines
    _________l_____l File Network and help. Did I do something wrong?

    • cae2100 says:

      the wifi gui in debian never worked for me, I always just did it through the network file in /etc/ folder, just look up how to add wifi using command prompt, there’s lots of tutorials about it.

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