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Linux on the MsnTV 2

here are some files that may be needed

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 today. I have bought 20 so far for a total price of around $200 ( $10 for shipping ).
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 :

Update - 02/15/06
Due to family problems i will not be able to keep working on the msntv development. The video patch hopefully will
be released in a few days.

For the people who don't normally use IRC. To join the chat click [here (].

Chipset - Intel 830 mobile chipset. (Low power)
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
msntv.jpg msntvback.jpg

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 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) afterchip.jpg
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
POST: 00

Kernel / rootfs / 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 cf card.
First download 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)

[ (]
[rootfs.tar.gz (]
[Bios.bin (] I can't host a copy of the patched bios. This contains microsoft's copyrighted code. Someone has setup a link on

Flashing the patch

We flash the bios by overriding a function of the service menu in ram. In this case the "Video test and show test screen". [This (] is what the service menu looks like.
Once you run the graphic test it then opens the bios.bin on the CF card and flashes it to the bios.
Heres how to do it
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 while the bios is being written.

The kernel boots!
Now reboot the Msntv. It should boot the kernel. Like this

Pictures of my Msntv 2 cluster and stuff
cluster1.jpg cluster2.jpg
cluster3.jpg img4.jpg

First pictures of Video out on the Msntv 2.. Shiby for my wega
linux1.jpg linux2.jpg
Q - Does this work on any Msntv's aside from the RM4100?
A - No the other msntv was MIPS based. This is x86 based
Q - Does video work?
A - YES!
Q - Who am i?
A - Check out the about page [here (]
Q - Hi res image of the board?
A - [Hi-res Image (]
Q - Dmesg?
A - Sure Here ( I'm using a standard kernel with certain modules compiled in (monolithic)
Q - What do you use the cluster for?
A - At the moment not much. I hope to setup beowulf / rocks in the next few days. Distcc works great :)
Q - Does it support cf > 64mb
A - Not at this moment. But i plan to fix that
Q - What do you use for power? / How much power?
A - I use 3x350watt atx power supplies / Each unit requires 12v/2amp

Contacting me
If you would like to ask me a question or need help. Please either join my irc channel ( #msntv ) or email me at This was not done to escape paying microsoft money.
Please pay them! so they don't sue me

To Do
Fix 64mb cf limit

Special thanks to
Nopcode - Thanks for all your help.
Sky - You know who you are.

Check out my other projects
If you get a chance. Check out some of my other projects [Here (]