First, a quick rundown on I-Opener versions, in case you're new and don't know the version scheme:
v1 - original I-Opener with Winchip and BIOS that boots any OS. QNX exploits (hacking the built in OS) work. Demo has a male voice.
v2 - Updated BIOS that only boots QNX, glued into socket. Hardware and software wise same as v1.
v3 - Same as v2 except holes in QNX patched and demo has a female voice.
v3b - A v3 with Torx screws in the base instead of philips.
v4 - Torx screws, same QNX as the v3 series, CPU is now a Rise PR266, BIOS is no longer glued down. Screen is now Hitachi instead of Sharp.
v4b - a v4 with the voltage adjustment switch above the SODIMM slot. VERY RARE, but I've seen it!
v5 - Same as a v4b but with AD1881 audio instead of the Yamaha OPL3SA. New BIOS that does not let you get into setup, and will not boot prior versions of the QNX software.
Whew, I'm glad that's over!
Well, after seeing some almost familiar prices on HSN ($149) and eBay ($120) for the I-Opener, I decided to add a few more to my collection. Just when I thought I was an I-Opener "expert", these latest I-Openers went and bitchslapped me as I attempted to "hack" them.
You may have noticed on eBay that many sellers state that an "unhackable" I-Opener exists... Well, the truth is - they DO! The "unhackable" I-Opener is ANY version (v2, v3, v3b) that has a glued BIOS, but the catch is - it has to have been used recently with Netpliance's service. Apparantly Netpliance did some kind of update to the OS that makes the old "reflashing via QNX image on hard drive" trick (which works on all virgin I-Openers prior to v5) NOT WORK! This means that in order to reflash these used I-Openers, you have to resort to removing the epoxy.
Epoxy removal WAS easy when your I-Opener was part of a fresh shipment and the epoxy didn't have much time to set... On a used I-Opener, the epoxy is ROCK HARD and almost impossible to remove without breaking the socket. If you break your socket - game over. Unopened or unsubscribed I-Openers are a different story - the QNX image trick works like a charm on them, even if the epoxy has turned to stone.
The latest v5's are somewhat annoying... The only way to get a v5 "hacked" is to buy a new BIOS from badflash.com, OR hotflash it with another I-Opener. I have no problem with hotflashing, but if you're not careful you can end up with a fried I-Opener. This isn't the real problem with the v's though...
Problem #1, "Where's my Legacy Audio, dude?":
The real problem is that the "hacked" v5 BIOS is missing "Legacy Sound Blaster Pro" support for the onboard VIA audio. YES it is SUPPOSED to be there, NO it is not. The VIA audio drivers in the \DOS folder will inform you of this situation if you try to install them. This means NO "restart in MS-DOS mode" support for sound. Maybe whoever hacked the BIOS can fix this... Assembly code is all greek to me.
Problem #2, "The QNX that wouldn't die":
Another annoying v5 problem: You cannot simply delete the QNX partitions on the SanDisk, create an active DOS partition, format it (with /s), and hope for it to boot - because it won't. Apparantly the I-Opener 2001 QNX has a screwed up boot location (MBR, possibly?) or something similar going on. I finally managed to get it to boot by using DOLLY to restore an image of another I-Opener's DOS-having SanDisk.
Problem #3, "The silent v5":
v5 I-Openers don't have the PC speaker line routed through the speakers as the prior versions did. No bleeps, beeps or chirps... Anyone find a hack to restore PC speaker support to the v5?