After more than a year in the bottom of my closet, I resurrected my WebPlayer to its glorious new life as a web terminal on my breakfast table.
I started the project early last year, when Virgin shut off service and I repossessed my WebPlayer from my mother-in-law. I followed the suggestions available at the time, and installed a Hitachi DK23BA-10 (10056MB) laptop hard drive. Then, I ordered a 3.5" -> 2.5" cable adapter, installed the little drive in my wife's computer (I wasn't going to take *mine* offline!), and put Windows 98 on it. Guess what - Win98 without any additional software, or a CD-ROM, or a floppy, or a network card is pretty boring. I put the Player back into storage and went on about my business.
Yesterday, I applied power for the first time in months, and was happy to see the little machine boot into Win98. While I was at Office Max picking up supplies, I bought a Belkin F5D5050 USB ethernet adapter, ran home, and fired it up. After much cursing, screaming, and Google'ing, I realized that I had the same USB problems as everyone else on the board. With little to lose, I yanked the hard drive, put it back in my wife's machine, and installed FreeBSD 4.5. Unfortunately, that release doesn't support the USB ethernet adapter, even with my (limited) usb source code modifications. I succeeded in making the machine recognize the adapter, but the LED never lit, and I could never pass traffic.
Chalking that up as another failure, I installed a copy of RedHat 7.2 from some CDs I had recently burned. Same problem, but this time at least I had the promise that newer Linux kernels fully supported the adapter. However, after getting mired in RPM-dependency hell while trying to upgrade the kernel, I wiped the drive again.
This time, I installed Debian GNU/Linux 3.0. During the install process, I added both OHCI and UHCI drivers (I wasn't sure which setup the WebPlayer used) and the Pegasus module. Unfortunately, after rebooting, I still couldn't detect the $@#!()#@ USB ethernet adapter.
This being Debian, though, I wasn't about to give up that easily. A quick 'apt-get install kernel-image-2.4.18-386' and a reboot later, and I was up and running! The final test was to put the drive back into the WebPlayer and apply power. Within minutes, I was gleefully staring at a root prompt and pinging machines across the Internet. I haven't installed X yet (it's still downloaded as I type this), but the console works about as well as could be expected (given the WebPlayer's awful text mode). The USB driver works *much* better than with Windows. I occasionally get a console message:
pegasus.c: intr status -84
during large file transfers and the LED goes black. In well under a second, though, the adapter is brought back up and the in-progress transfers resume. Sure, it may not be the fastest link I've ever used, but it seems to be extremely reliable. I have yet to be forced to unplug/replug the adapter to get it to come back to life, and the interruptions in traffic are short enough that I don't notice them.
My next projects: get X running and fire up XMMS to start blaring (well, as much as an internal speaker can blare) MP3s from my fileserver.