IBM Netvista N2200 8363Linux on IBM Netvista 8363

The Netvista 8363

The Netvista 8363 also refered as N2200 is a thin client made and sold by IBM between 1999 and 2001. It was designed to operate as a Windows Terminal with Windows CE 3.1 or a Linux based Terminal X. It was declined in 3 versions: the EXX, TXX  and WXX series. The EXX and WXX have an Ethernet 10/100 network interface while the TXX series have a Token Ring interface. The difference between the EXX and WXX series is that the WXX is shipped with a 16MB compact flash card with MS Windows CE 3.1 installed.

The interesting points of the Netvista 2200 are that theese thin clients are nearly a standard PC architecture (at the BIOS near), that they are small ( l x L x H = 3.6 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm ). They are low power consummer (max 3A under 12V ) and total silents.

Theese PC are now discontinuated but you can buy it for about 20€.

Netvista 8363 N2200 mainboardNetvista 8363 signaletic schield


Hardware inspection

The Netvista 8363 have 32 MB soldered RAM and a socket for 100Mhz clocked SDRAM (also refered as PC100) that accept a module of up to 256MB so that you can have a system with 288 MB RAM.

Now, we will take a look at the processor, reading /proc/cpuinfo :
processor	: 0
vendor_id : CyrixInstead
cpu family : 5
model : 7
model name : Cyrix MediaGXtm MMXtm Enhanced
stepping : 4
cpu MHz : 233.867
cache size : 16 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 2
wp : yes
flags : fpu tsc msr cx8 cmov mmx cxmmx
bogomips : 466.94

Here, we can see that the processor is an i586 (cpu_family: 5) from Cyrix clocked at 233 Mhz. Unfortunatly it haves only 16 KB cache. It honors a Floating Point Unit (even if the Cyrix FPU was not very reputed) and the MMX instructions set.

Then we will look at the installed PCI devices (all the PCI hardware are soldered on the main board thus not removable/interchangeable ) reading in /proc/pci :

PCI devices found:
Bus 0, device 0, function 0:
Host bridge: Cyrix Corporation PCI Master (rev 0).
Bus 0, device 14, function 0:
Ethernet controller: Silicon Integrated Systems [SiS] SiS900 10/100 Ethernet (rev 2).
IRQ 10.
Master Capable. Latency=64. Min Gnt=52.Max Lat=11.
I/O at 0xc000 [0xc0ff].
Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0x44801000 [0x44801fff].
Bus 0, device 18, function 0:
ISA bridge: Cyrix Corporation 5530 Legacy [Kahlua] (rev 0).
Bus 0, device 18, function 1:
Bridge: Cyrix Corporation 5530 SMI [Kahlua] (rev 0).
Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0x40012000 [0x400120ff].
Bus 0, device 18, function 2:
IDE interface: Cyrix Corporation 5530 IDE [Kahlua] (rev 0).
I/O at 0xfc00 [0xfc0f].
Bus 0, device 18, function 3:
Multimedia audio controller: Cyrix Corporation 5530 Audio [Kahlua] (rev 0).
Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0x40011000 [0x4001107f].
Bus 0, device 18, function 4:
VGA compatible controller: Cyrix Corporation 5530 Video [Kahlua] (rev 0).
Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0x40800000 [0x40ffffff].
Bus 0, device 19, function 0:
USB Controller: Compaq Computer Corporation ZFMicro Chipset USB (rev 6).
IRQ 11.
Master Capable. Latency=64. Max Lat=80.
Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0x44800000 [0x44800fff].

We can notice that the Netvista embbed one IDE controler, one SiS 900 10/100 Ethernet Controler, One Compaq USB host controler, one Cyrix integrated Video Adaptater and one Cyrix integrated SoundCard.

  • The IDE controler is handled without problem by the default linux IDE driver
  • The SiS 900 network chipset is full supported by the sis900 linux driver
  • The USB host controler is full supported by the linux usb-ohci driver
  • The Video Adapter will be handled by the VESA driver (unfortunatly this chipset don't support text modes). The screen resolution must be choosen at boot time ( TOCHECK we can't hotswitch the screen resolution due to a linux VESA driver limitation ?)
  • The sound card is supported by the xxx OSS driver for the 2.4 kernel TODO ALSA 2.6
Note:
The Netvista have no Clock (RTC). That is no problem when you use it as a terminal but will be a problem when you use it as a standard PC. 2 possibilities are: asking the user during the initilisation for the current date / time or better (if the Netvista is connected to a network) using an automatic clock synchronisation service like NTP.

The Netvista 8363 Firmwares

The 8363 come with a firmware
standard BIOS ?
Not for the bootloader

bflash.2x00 or kernel.2x00 ( that is fixed by IBM )
    That heisst dass we don't need a bootloader like lilo or grub
    That we cn't use a bootloader lioke lilo or grub ( shade )

The new firmware won't look for a boot sector as standard PC BIOSes but look for a kernel.2x00 file in the first partition of the conpact flash. Supported partitions/filesystems seems to be linux second extends Filesystem (ext2) or windows fat 16 / fat 32.



Updating the Firmware

from the compact flash
from network via tftp




Installing Linux

We will describe 3 linux installations possibilities:

  1. Linux as operating system of a normal PC
  2. Linux as a diskless operating system of a normal PC
  3. Linux based terminal X

The Netvista as a normal PC under Linux:

You need a compatible Compact Flash Card of a size depending on what you want to install.

Kernel Compilation

Get the 2.4.32 kernel at kernel.org and extract it
$ wget http://kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/v2.4/linux-2.4.32.tar.bz2
$ tar jxvf linux-2.4.32.tar.bz2
$ cd linux-2.4.32

Get the fixed address cmdline pqtch by IBM and apply it to the kernel:
$ wget netvista-cmdline.patch
$ patch -p1 < netvista-cmdline.patch

Configure the kernel:
$ make menuconfig


Compile the kernel:
$ make dep
$ make vmlinux


cp vmlinux kernel.2x00


There is also a script that automatise this process:

The Netvista as a Diskless PC under Linux:

You need the version with a Compact Flash socket


The Netvista as a Linux based Terminal X:

1.- Kernel compilation
2.- LTSP Linux Terminal Serer Project


Resultats usability

As linux based X terminal, there is no problem as the hardware was designed. The only regret is that the screen bit depth is limited 16 bits. The CPU is nearly not used

Console tools OK
HTTP server with lighthttp and PHP5 Ok but
Graphical use
IceWM ok
Dillo ok
Firefox ?


References

  1. IBM Website - http///www.ibm.com
  2. Linux Terminal Server Project - http://ltsp.org


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