[syslinux] 10 year old question

Daryl Kuchay daryl.kuchay at icloud.com
Wed May 13 08:33:55 PDT 2020

Hi All,

I used to run webdt.org and this was built to support a tablet computer that hit the market around the late 90’s. DT Research makes them and they get sold to mostly enterprise applications. That being said there are still a few hundred thousand of these in circulation. 

The hardware is a bit of a hack. Its usb1.1 with a 44 pin flash module on 44 pin pata half height headers. MFGR grounded pin 44 so we cant easily swap out these for generic larger replacements. Average size of this module is 500mb. These originally came with windows ce. Bios is American Micro Devices XpressROM_DT366_0.01.10. Hardware is AMD Geode. Updated Bios is dated 7/21/2005. 

Syslinux is used to boot many distributions of linux however on this hardware the most recent version of syslinux that I have seen work is version 3.82 or version 3.83. If I try a distribution on v4 or newer of syslinux I see the boot hang on the first line indicating what version of syslinux is being used. 

webdt.org has been read only for years now and mostly due to the fact that owners of the hardware are limited to old versions of puppy linux, the last to support the aging hardware in the world. This is largely due to the fact that syslinux has updated to the point of no longer supporting the hardware. Grub-0.97 is also the last version of grub that supports the hardware so this is not singular. 

The irony of the packaging timelines with regard to this hardware are humorous. At the point in time that linux console tools, and namely inputattach, started to support this hardware (penmount serial touchscreen being able to attach to evdev) was about one version behind the point that syslinux started to not support the hardware. Accidental I am sure however it is very hard to make a version fo linux to support this hardware due to these timelines. 

My questions are:

Was this by design? I well understand dropping legacy to advance code but with so many of these in the wild.....   ebay dt research or webdt. I see over a thousand of them today in lot quantities.

Is there anything I can do to get more modern versions of syslinux to boot on the hardware in question?  IE workarounds or modifications to boot lines being used?

We are supported by linux kernel up to version 5 on the hardware. It would be nice if other areas of linux followed suit. I have leaned on distribution maintainers to possibly make an iso with older syslinux on it so that owners of the hardware would be supported however many indicate they would not be sure they could support it. 

If you were me what would you do? 

Thank you in advance!

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