Where to start! I have been searching for a cheap device that i could use for a cluster. I came across the msntv 2 at CompUSA one day about 2 months ago. Ever since then I have been buying them on eBay for around $0.99 cents. Don't believe me? Here is one I bought. I have bought 20 so far for a total price of around $200. After socketing the msntv bios and poking around. I managed to get Linux running and even better managed to get it running without any hardware modifications. The specs for the msntv 2 are as follows :
Note: DOS [A]rchive attribute SHOULD NOT be set on the kernel, cmdline and stage2 files on the card. Otherwise, the kernel will not boot. (Thanks to codeman for pointing this out.) It appears that simply clearing this attribute does not correct the problem; the files must be copied using Windows.
The IRC channel for the MsnTV 2 is #msntv on irc.toc2rta.com.
Cpu - Mobile Celeron 733mhz 256kb cache
Ram - 128Mb Ram
Flash - 64mb sans compact flash card
Network - 100mbit intel pro.
Usb x 2 ports
Serial (onboard no connector)
IR - keyboard / remote
Loading Linux - Serial interface
Logic levels on the inputs and outputs of the UART in the SuperIO chip are LVTTL (0/3.3V). The standard serial port connectors have RS-232 levels (-12/+12V). Most PCs that have a serial port have a LVTTL to RS-232 level translator built in, however since the serial port is not a nominally user-accessible feature on the MSNTV, the chip has not been designed in to lower the cost. So you will need a serial ttl chip something like the max3232cpe chip will work (this is what i used). You can find the schematics for such a device [http://nil.rpc1.org/psp/files/PSP%20Serial%20Converter.pdf here] This was designed with the PSP in mind, but will work fine with the msntv 2.
The Serial pins on the msntv are located at the front left of the board. (It looks like the power to a floppy drive)
The pin outs are 1-tx 2-rx 3-gnd 4-3.3v (left to right.) - Thanks to codeman for this discovery.
Getting into the service menu
Once you have serial setup connect it and set the baud rate to 115200 and power the msntv on.
The msntv will send # once this happens. Reply with $ and you will see something like this.
MSNTV Service Menu
BoxID: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Box Serial)
Version: 1 Build: 387 MSNTV CRC: 758646167 MD5: FEC7884E 15CB25B6 8C59A9FA 4A6D0195
Kernel / Userland / Bios.bin
You will need to place vmlinux.bin in the first partition of your compact flash card. A file named "cmdline" contains the command line options for the kernel. You will also need to copy an image of the rootfs onto your cd card.
First download kernel.zip. Copy the vmlinux.bin / cmline / bios.bin to the cf card (You can delete the other files).
Then download rootfs.tar.gz extract it ( tar -xzvf rootfs.tar.gz ) and copy the image to the 3rd partition on the cf card
(dd if=rootfs.img of=/dev/sda3)
There are two kernel types currently available, PanicOpticon's which support video and Niacin's original build which does not.
PanicOpticon's kernel and configs can be found [here (http://firelife.dyn.dhs.org/~panicopticon/msntv/kernel/)]
Flashing the patch
Now type "x" which will get you into the examine memory option. Then copy and paste the commands from here Now type "q" then "v" and you should see something like this
The green and blue light on the front of the msntv should flash backwards and forwards file the bios is being written.
After the msntv reboots. It should boot the kernel. Like this
Pictures of my Msntv 2 cluster and stuff
If you would like to ask me a question or need help. Please either join our irc channel ( irc.toc2rta.com #msntv ) or email me at email@example.com.
Nopcode - The Brave
Skylark - The Brain
Niacin - The Boy