Veghead's i-opener page

1 Intro

On a recent visit to the states I picked up a $99 i-opener. Back in the UK I set about putting Linux on it.

This quick guide is an attempt to summarise a lot of info on the i-opener found on the various discussion lists, but particularly Its not designed to do it for you, just to get you pointing in the right direction and hopefully to stop you making the same gaffe as me in asking a FAQ to the list ("I cant get root on my i-opener - why ?" See section 2 for the answer.)

If you get stuck, Check the FAQ. If its not there, search on the board. If not then post it. You're supposed to be hacking it - so hack!

First Things First

Firstly, read the FAQ. Some of the info is slightly out of date.

Next find out what version i-opener you have by reading the section 2 below.

If you have a version with the nobbled BIOS (almost certainly) you will not be able to boot from a disk that doesnt have the geometry 490/2/32. If thats going to be a problem for you then you'll need to flash downgrade your BIOS. See section 3 for info on how to do it.

2. Guide to i-opener versions

Guide based on posting by Linuxguru

V1: Shows 'nothing but net' boot screen, tutorial in male voice, no goop on BIOS, IDE header intact. No BIOS downgrade necessary.

V2: New boot screen, tutorial in male voice, goop on BIOS (sometimes), IDE header has pins clipped (sometimes), will not boot generic HD. Badflash V1 BIOS will work, QNX Root password is known to be osiw$6.4, use either the QNX drive image trick or login as root to transfer qnxflash to downgrade it to V1 (details in other threads).

V3: New boot screen, tutorial in female voice, goop on BIOS (always), IDE header intact, will not boot generic HD. QNX Root password unknown, Shadow password file missing. Either Badflash or the QNX drive image trick with CMOS settings as 490/2/32 can be used to downgrade it to V1.

V3B: New boot screen, tutorial in female voice, goop on BIOS (always), IDE header intact, Torx screws on stand mount, will not boot generic HD. QNX Root password unknown, Shadow password file missing. Changes in component layout near SODIMM. QNX drive image trick with CMOS settings as 490/2/32 can be used to downgrade it to V1. (Possible limitations on the kind of drives for which the trick works - older drives < 100 MB have higher probability of success.)

V4: Same as V3B, but with Rise PR266 CPU and Hitachi screen. At the moment, the best bang for the buck, since there are possible CPU upgrades beyond 300 MHz. Same procedure to downgrade as V3B. QNXFLASH might need to be a more recent version due to problems with Rise.

V5: Dated 7/7/2000. New BIOS image. Sound chip replaced by Analog Devices AC97 (AD1881A) chip. Datasheets at New SANdisk image.

3. Flashing the BIOS

How I flashed my V4

I can't claim any cred for discovering this - all info was gleaned from the board. Please look at the board. Really. Of course, you could always avoid this section and get a V1 BIOS from Badflash. Much easier but not half as much fun...

This method also works for V3.

  1. Open the Box. You will need something to deal with the torx screws. I used a screwdriver and brute force. The last one wouldn't budge and so in a fit of brutal,mindless frustration I yanked it off. It cracked very cleanly and no damage was done. Nonetheless I'd buy some TORX drivers if I were you. They're well useful anyway. In the UK you can get these anywhere, Maplin, RS etc. In the US use digikey ( - PN XPTX600-ND).
  2. Get hold of a v2 qnx image from User: iopener, Pass: iopener. If you have a V4+ you will need the later image with qnxflash version 102 - using v1 will do nasty things.
  3. Get your laptop IDE drive and plug it into a PC. To do this you will need an adapter that converts 44-pin 2mm IDE to standard 40-pin IDE. These are available everywhere, I got one at the geek-fair for 6 quid.
  4. Booted the linux PC. At the LILO prompt give the kernel the following parameter:
    eg If your normal LILO config is called 'Linux' at the boot prompt you would type:
    boot: Linux hdc=490,2,32
    Obviously if your laptop drive is not the secondary master you will need to change the 'hdc' to the correct drive.

    This parameter makes linux believe the geometry of the drive is 490,2,32 and ignores the results of the drive probe.

  5. copied the v2 image file to the disk with
    gzip -dc <gzipped_v2_image_file> | dd of=/dev/hdb
  6. Plug the laptop drive into the iopener. Of course for this you will need a nobbled cable. I cant tell you how difficult it was to get a 44-way cable in the UK. I highly recommend buying the MOD kit.I ended up paying a fortune by getting two laptop IDE cables from Miles Ind.Electronics in the UK. ( - very, very nice people BTW - very helpful and a very quick delivery). I then joined them together with a male to male adapter from digikey ( PN 3M1244-ND). This gives the same effect as swapping all of the pairs of leads...without the immense hassle.
  7. Switch on i-opener and CTRL-ATL-ESC to get into the BIOS setup. Of course you will need a "proper" keyboard to do this as the IO one doesnt have ESC.
  8. Setup the BIOS: The above is not full of typos. Despite the HD being primary master, unless you setup the BIOS in this rather bizarre and illogical way you will not be able to boot off the HD. Instead you will get the dreaded "DISK BOOT FAILURE".

    I don't know why...someone like to tell me ?

  9. Boot the i-opener off the hard-disk!
  10. Bring up the QNX root prompt via the TAB,4444 method. (see FAQ)
  11. Move to the right directory by typing:
    cd app/ztest
  12. Enter the command "ls -al" to check to see if the files are all there. You should see: qnxflash, and the bios_image_256k.bin and some others.
  13. Start the flashing with the command:
    qnxflash -w bios_image_256k.bin
  14. If all goes well, reboot and you will have the V1/2 BIOS with all of its different piccies, graphics and security holes.

4. Installing Jailbait

At this point you can boot of the hard-disk with normal geometry. This is what I did next.
  1. Put the laptop HD into a PC and DOS-formatted it. I used DOS because it's really very small and dead quick to install. As I was going to wipe it after this anyway, Linux would have been overkill... especially if the only command I wanted to use was dd...
  2. Then copied DOLLY.EXE and the uncompressed jailbait image to it.
  3. Put the laptop into the IO and set both drives to "Auto" in the BIOS
  4. Rebooted the IO and it came up in DOS
  5. Copied the jailbait image to the SANdisk with
    dolly <jailbait_image_file> HD129:
  6. Rebooted - and Hey Presto, Linux on the IO!

5. Other useful links

Recent i-opener hack page with downloads!

i-opener discussions

Linux hacking guide including mod kit


Original Linux i-opener site

Google Links

Jailbait: Tiny Linux distribution for sandisk

Details on downgrading.

Adam Lotz describes how he did it.