Installing OpenWRT on the Zipit Z2 for a $20 pocketable linux experience - Other Embedded Platforms and Hardware Hacking

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Hi, unixhub! You guys have all probably wished, at some point or another, for a tiny, cheap computer that could fit in your pocket and run *nix on the go. I wished, for a long time, for the same thing, and now, I've finally found my nirvana: the Zipit Z2. With a 312 MHz processor and 32MB of RAM, it's sufficient for running a minimal linux system and doing some everyday tasks. I've used mine for emulating Gameboy games, playing vitetris, browsing the forums here, playing music, and chatting on IRC.

Now, I intend for the remainder of this post to be a tutorial. If you want to spend the best 20 dollars you've ever spent (Okay, 28 if you count the price of an SD card), then go ahead and bookmark this thread.

You can order a Z2 for 14 bucks (plus shipping, which equalled 20 for me) here. Once you have your Zipit ordered, you'll need a MiniSD card. Of course, most laptops have a regular-sized SD port, so you'll probably want to order one of these types of sets- a microSD card with a miniSD and Standard SD adapters - which is what I used.

Once both of those things arrive, download this zipped archive. Unzip it and copy its contents to your miniSD card. This is mozzwald's "Flashstock" script, which installs the U-boot bootloader onto the tiny flash memory on the Z2, overwriting the Z2's original OS. Once you're done copying this to the SD card, open a terminal, enter "sync", then unmount the SD card. Put the card into your Z2 and power it on. Follow the onscreen dialogues to flash your device.

Once you're done with that, power off your device and put your SD card back into your computer. Format the card as Ext2. Now, download the unofficial port of OpenWRT for the Z2 here. OpenWRT is a version of linux designed for routers - it's perfect for embedded systems and is extremely lightweight, which makes a lot of sense for the Z2. A minimal install of OpenWRT can be squeezed into 2MB. Anyway, when you're done downloading that tar.gz file, open a terminal once again and become root - you must be root from this point on. move the tar.gz file to the SD card, then use the tar command to extract it. Once you're done, run "rm *.tar.gz" for cleanup, "sync" to make sure the SD card is free from processes, and then unmount the SD card. Put the SD card in your Zipit and boot. Once the text hasn't scrolled for a good 5 seconds, press enter to start the shell. Hit the stop button at the top of the keyboard to switch shells (there are two open at a time). To configure the wi-fi, you'll need to use vi to edit /etc/config/wireless (which is commented to guide you). As soon as you're connected, run "opkg update" and then try installing something - I highly recommend the text editor of the gods, vim - so just type "opkg install vim". To run a graphical package, you'll need to be in the second terminal - don't ask me why, it just works that way. I highly recommend running "opkg vitetris ohboy elinks vim irssi"

Here's the official Z2 OpenWRT page, which has more helpful info:

Anyways, it you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you really get in a bind and need help, get on #zipit. The folks who ported OpenWRT to the Zipit are all there and ready to help.

Of course, with U-boot, you can try other distros. There's a port of Debian for the Z2, a port of Arch, a port of Ubuntu (eww), a pen-testing distro called Sidetrack, and tons of others. The procedure is almost always the same, just unzip (as root) the rootfs onto the SD card and you're good to go.

Good luck, guys! I hope this device makes someone here as happy as it has made me! And of course, pictures are coming soon!

Messages In This Thread
Installing OpenWRT on the Zipit Z2 for a $20 pocketable linux experience - by hades - 30-07-2013, 02:40 AM