|Etherbooting (at least in the full-fledged sense) might never be an option for these boxen. The first trick is going to be finding a boot PROM for whatever isa nic you're able to dig up. Not impossible, but upon boot, the unit would have to be smart enough to say "Oh, look, a nic with a boot prom is present. Better suspend any usual boot functions and defer to it." I'd bet a dollar that when teknema designed this unit, the ethernet option was little more than an afterthought for these things. I'd be extremely surprised if the unit had the logic for dealing with anything more advanced. (generally, set-top box manufacturers aren't designing the things to be opened up and fiddled with...much less, unscrewing the whole unit, lift up the motherboard, remove the nic, put a chip into the socket, replace the nic and button the whole thing back up. It's just not characteristic of the market they're selling to). |
So the way to do this would be to cram some sort of bios-like image into the flash simm that could handle it. The Cirrus ARM dev board is so close in design, we might be able to get its firmware working towards this end. Of course, we've already had a few people (at least temporarily) render their units useless by trying to upgrade with an image for one of the sister units based on the original teknema reference design. So even that developer's ARM board's firmware might need some serious modification to work...not to mention that we'd also have to solve the problem of getting it in the flash in the first place (if codeman happens to notice the renewed activity in this area, it would be really nice to get some more details on how he did things and if there has been any further progress).
Currently, the one known working implementation of a hack on this unit made use of a linux kernel (there are other projects that have successfully replaced their bios on an x86 box with a linux kernel. I assume some of the theory is the same). So at best, it looks like we would be booting the things with linux, implementing some sort of interface for linux to drop out of the way, let the boot prom take over, and then boot back to linux? Granted, if your heart is set on making this a NetBSD box, then it would be an understandable option. It'd also give us who are interested in running linux the chance to upgrade kernels and such without requiring a reflash.
Official Disclaimer: Some of this is wild speculation, and even in the parts where I am knowledgeable, there are some vague details. Like everything you read on the internet, do not take this as the gospel truth. =)