Hello, introducing myself, big rant and newbie (on this list) questions [LONG]

Mircea Ciocan mirceac at interplus.ro
Sun Jan 31 22:59:28 CET 1999

                Hi all,

        My name is Mircea Ciocan, presently I'm struggling as a sysadmin
at a
small ISP and data carrier in Romania, but my "love of the heart" was
allways low level asm programming and hardware hacking.
< rant mode on - you may skip that >
        So few days ago I was thinking how can I become as rich as
BillG. or as
famous as Linus ;), remembering that some time ago there was still a
need for people who can do asm and wrote their own device drivers. But
I'm not so smart to make a better Linux and I hate any kind of
spreadsheet so billgatising is not an issue. But what can do an old low
level programmer and hardware guy do to reward somehow the community
that gived him Linux and all those beautifull tools that allow him a
(reletively) quiet and fruitfull job ???
        Browsing deadly bored on the FSF site I see that on their task
list the
project of an open BIOS and I rememberd that I see on /. that a new
project was started and after a little search I find you guys :).
        By some kind of miracle on the same time few other things

        On /. was announced the smallest PC that can run Linux, making
deathly gelous that I wasn't the first to do that ;) and remembering
that with a lot of time ago I haved the smallest ZX Spectrum compatible
in Romania :).
        I found the nicest and affordable board that a hacker can find
as a
Mini Internet Gateway build along in a nice case with power supply, 2
serial ports, one Realtek 8019 Ethernet controller with dual interface,
twisted and coax cable, 1MB of RAM and 512KB of FlashROM, "powerd by the
ferocious" ALI 6117C processor ( something like 386SX/40) all on a board
of 100x110mm cased in a nice little plastic case[1]. The beast was used
for connecting a network of max 256 station on 1 or 2
dial-up/leased/ISDN, it has a DHCP server for those windoze machines ;),
it can be administrated remotely by telnet and WEB interface, it has
built-in IP masquerading, traffic shaper, firewalling and it was a dream
to work with. It saved me and my company a LOT of problems (and money)
by zapping expensive routers, expensive windozian proxyes and wingates
:) and yes, even Linux boxes and all that under 200$ !!!!.
        So I felt in love instantly, but with the hackerish devil in me
awaken, I mistreated a poor box to "see what's inside", beeing firmly
convinced that is some proprietary chip design and I can never make it
to mount network drivers and serve custom web pages for example, not to
mention some other nice usages.
        To my great surprise the little thing has the above
configuration and I
said "You're mine baby, you'll run Linux in 2 weeks from now and you'll
be everything that I want to do with you like a wereable(?) computer,
network driven EPROM programmer and many other automation thingies
        The joy was quickly shadowed by the fact that that the
manufacturer of
the chips "Acer Labs Int'l" (ALI)[2] IS THE MOST ANAL RETENTIVE AND
IDIOTIC CHIP MANUFACTURER IN THE WORLD !!! Now I feel better that I said
it ;).
        Protected by password datasheets, no email address, a Taiwan BBS
that don't work and nothing more than some description, it was a real
shock me that almost make me hack their american Solaris web host, but I
think: what the hell, I just need a embedded BIOS with serial
redirection and screw ALI.
        After another day browsing the Internet for a BIOS and seeing it
prices between 200-2000$ I give up closed source and see the light: 
"... the world needs an OpenBIOS, and mostly an embedded one ;)))"      
        On the same time frame a customer with a lot of measurement
points that
spits their measured values on modems ask us if he can use our microwave
MAN for colecting data, given that Breezecom[3] adapters we use have a
phone voice channell simulating a PSTN. Unfortunately the modems did not
work well on voice channel ( it wasn't intended for that) so I came with
the ideea of simulating a modem by network and to use this little
beasts, so now I have more time and resources to work on the BIOS
        So, all in all I'm here, all yours, eager to help, code and be
if not a
Linus to BIOSes but maybe a little Alan Cox or Dave Miller. And now
let's get to real ( even protected mode) things ;) 
< /rant mode off, thank you for your patience.. >

Questions (not in relevant order):

1)      It is considered in this project an embedded BIOS for small
appliance, industrial PCs or PC104 ?
2)      Is the list archived somewere?
3)      Have you guys established the guide lines of this project and
the specifications?
4)      Does the above specifications contain something about embedded
and if yes, who is the sub-project leader?
5)      What is the organisation of this project, who are the leaders
and how
many of you are here ( I'll be glad to receive personal mail from you to
meet you all) ?
6)      [IMPORTANT] Does anybody has specifications of those beasts:
        ALI 6117C       
        ALI M5113-A2
        ALI M5232-A1 and if so can he/she share it with me?
7)      Is anybody working at some related boards like the above one?
8)      What kind of develpment tools you standardised (
and so..)?      OK, this I'll figure soon when I'll try to see what's in
code tar ball.

        In the end of this long and boring post thank you for your
patience and
I hope that I can be part of your team for a real free BIOS embedded or
not ;).
		Mircea C.

P.S. For the pacient of you who made it here some pointers:
http://www.surecom.com.tw/ - SURECOM - the maker of Internet Gateway/Hub
on that beautifull board.
http://www.ali.com.tw/ - Acer Labs - and their most idiotic overseas
http://www.breezecom.com/ - BREEZECOM - manufacturers of microwave WAN
adapters, in essance small calculators that are even cuter than Surecom

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