I had all but given up on my AOL-TV unit, until I had an idea the other day. I was able to use Slackware 10.1 and an alternate kernel for systems with low memory to get a base system running. It's not enough to make a complete system with, but it's definitely a starting point for anyone who wants to try a Linux setup. For those of you who want to try using Linux on an AOL-TV unit, here's what I did to get it up and running:
*Get a copy of Slackware Linux 10.1 (from www.slackware.com). For now, you'll only need CD #1. Grab the disc image and burn it to a CD
*Move the hard drive out of the AOL-TV unit and into another computer that has a CD-ROM drive. Boot from the Slackware CD and install onto the AOL-TV hard drive
*When setting up the hard drive partitions for installation, it is CRITICAL that you set up a good sized swap partition. The AOL-TV only has 8MB of memory, and if you don't have a swap partition, the unit will be unuseable (more on that later). I made a 4000MB main partition and used the rest (~380 MB) for swap space.
*When choosing install options, don't include anything related to X, KDE, Gnome, or anything else graphical. You need the base system, I also included the networking packages, the help packages, the group called "various applications that do not need X", and the system libraries package. (this may seem simplistic, but you can add more once we get the system up and running).
*Install the system. After installation is complete, the installer will prompt you for setup options. You will be prompted about which resolution you would like to use at the terminal. Choose the top entry on the list, it's marked as "the safe choice" or something along those lines. Also, when you are prompted to install LILO, make sure you install it to the Master Boot Record (MBR).
*Once installation is complete, try it out on your computer to make sure everything boots OK. If everything is working, you just have one more step to take. Log into Linux, insert the Slackware install CD, and mount it (to mount the cd, I used 'mount /dev/cdrom /cdrom' after typing 'mkdir /cdrom' to create the /cdrom directory).
*Change to the kernels directory on the cdrom ('cd /cdrom/kernels/'). You want to copy a kernel for low-memory systems onto the hard drive. You can do this with the command 'cp lowmem.i/zImage /boot/zImage.lowmem'
*Now, your system needs to know to use this kernel. Edit the file /etc/lilo.conf At the very bottom, you'll see a section of information about your current hard drive (contains about 4 entries; label root etc...) Copy this section and paste it just above the original section. Change the label to something unique (such as "Linux.lowmem") and change the 'image' line to read 'image = zImage.lowmem'
*Save and close the lilo.conf file. From the command line, run the 'lilo' command. This should update your boot loader to prompt you which kernel to boot (if you told it to) or to boot the low memory kernel by default.
*Now the system should be ready for transplant. Put the hard drive back into the AOL-TV unit, make sure the RCA video out is plugged into a TV, and start 'er up!
Slackware had enough drivers preinstalled that I was able to get the base system working. I was using RCA video out (VGA was displaying nothing, I think my cable is broken so your results may be better) and a standard keyboard connected to the header inside the device. I have not tried to connect the IR keyboard or use the TV tuner, video in, or sound yet. As I said, this is a very basic system :)
Basic. But functional. This was the first time I was able to boot, get something on the screen, and get the system to do something somewhat useful. My plan now is to add more packages to the installation one by one and see what all I can get running. I tried a full install in the past and the system did not boot or display anything, so until I figure out what it was the system didn't like, I'm going to have to add a bit at a time.
One final note: when I started up the AOL-TV unit, for some reason, the swap partition wasn't being used. I ran a simple 'man cp' command, and I got an error indicating that the system could not allocate enough memory to carry out the command. For some reason, my swap partition was not in my fstab. I manually entered my swap partition info into /etc/fstab just under the entry for my main partition and after a reboot, everything was great.
I hope someone out there finds this helpful. Feel free to post a reply if you have a question, I don't check the boards a whole lot but I am here from time to time. Now I am off to try to get more hardware and a graphical environment running and I will report any successes or troubles I may have!