The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Curbside Computers

Posted by Deliverator on May 19th, 2006

This past Wednesday, I attended SWN Hacknight for the first time since the changeover from Redline to Caffe Vita. Along for the ride was Theo, who has spent the last few years in Iraq and Korea, where Uncle Sam has put his intellect to work pumping gas and pounding fenceposts into the ground. He is kinda/sorta out of the military for the moment (unless they Shanghai him back in using “Stop Loss,” a despicable policy that flys in the face of our all “volunteer” military). He is considering going back to school for a CS degree, or trying to find employement in the IT industry. For the moment, he has a few months to consider his options, and is taking a much deserved breather.

We met up at Cafe Vita, but didn’t stay there long. The weather was beautiful and Matt suggested we move to the park. On the way out the door, someone spotted a pile of odd looking, cracked open computer cases sitting on the sidewalk. Most had been stripped of hard drives, ram and other useful parts, but there were a fair number that were more or less complete. Several of us rummaged through the pile for a few minutes to discover what they might be. The case said “AXIS Digital Media Manager” on the front and Matt recognized that they had stickers from a company called DMX, whose offices are a few blocks from the cafe. DMX is a Muzak type company. The devices we found seemed to have originally been used to stream elevator music over the internet to retail establishments. The device seemed to be more or less a normal pc, with 2 eide ports, a floppy port, sodimm slot, low profile NIC, modem, and a Cyrix 5×86 class processor all crammed inside a black “shelf” case with some front mounted control buttons and a 4-5 line LCD. I figured if nothing else, I would find use for the low profile NIC, tiny power supply and LCD at some point. About half of us headed to the park carrying our found treasures. While on the way to the park, we passed the DMX offices and discovered that their dumsters were half full of similar devices.

Once home, I plugged in a keyboard, mouse and monitor, added some ram, floppy, hard drive, etc. and fired it up. The devices use a bios from General Software, a company which specializes in custom bios software for embedded computers. I was able to get it to recognize the hard drive and floppy disk, but not the cd-rom. I didn’t try to hard. I tried getting Debian and FreeBSD running using network boot floppies, but both experienced some sort of kernel error relating to bios rom caching. I tried turning off caching of the referenced memory segments in the bios, but to no positive effect. Anyone have any clues? I haven’t been able to dig much up about these devices online, and if I am not able to figure it out in a short ammount of time I am going to canabalize mine for parts and throw the rest to the curb…

Click the image below (taken by Matt) to be taken to a small gallery of images related to this funky little device.

Axis Digital Media Manager