Converting the Virgin Webplayer into a PC
The Virgin Webplayer is one of those Internet appliances from the dot-com boom era. Virgin gave away hundreds of them in hopes of making money selling Internet service for them but Virgin shut-down the business shortly after it started. Now there are a bunch of near-new hardware units out there that aren't good for anything unless you hack them.
This guide describes how to turn the Webplayer into a Windows '98 PC.
What You'll Start With
The Webplayer had a "special" operating system and was designed to connect only to the Virgin-provided Internet service via the built-in modem. There is no hard drive. All software is burned onto a 48MB Disk-On-Chip (DOC) read/write memory chip. Here are the basic specs:
What You'll End-Up With
You've got two options for making the conversion:
For most people, this means removing the DOC and sending it to someone who will update its contents for you. This is the cheap approach but it doesn't provide much flexibility.
This will make the unit a true general-purpose PC and is the approach outlined on this page.
Either way, you'll want to avoid using the modem and, instead, use a USB Ethernet adapter for Internet access. This is because, at the time of this writing, no one has figured out a way to use the modem without having to do a little password guessing each time you connect to the Internet. It's just not worth it in my opinion.
When you're done, you'll have a very low-end PC, but a PC none the less. The sound will be poor. The video quality is sufficient at best. You won't want to make this conversion instead of buying or building a "real" PC, but it's a fun project and worthwhile if you get the parts cheaply enough.
The HackThis is a pretty straight forward procedure, so let's get started.
Get the Parts
Assuming you've already found a Webplayer, you'll also need:
Prepare the Hard Drive
The objective is to load the drive with the OS, all drivers and any software you won't want to bother with downloading over the Internet later. Here's a check list:
The easiest way to prepare the drive is to connect it to a desktop via an adapter. An adapter is necessary because laptop drives don't have a separate power cable and have a 44 pin IDE connector instead of 40 pins.
Make the drive bootable, then copy the required and optional contents to the drive. That's it.
Commence the Operation
The Webplayer comes apart pretty easily. Here are the steps:
Here's what the inside looks like before the modification.
Here's what the underside of the motherboard looks like.
Boot-up and Configure
Boot-up the machine and press F2 (the key with the book icon) to get to the BIOS. The BIOS password is "schwasck". The IDE controller is disabled by default. You need to enable it.
Exit the BIOS and boot the machine to the command prompt. You should see that lovely C:\> prompt.
Now you just have to install Windows '98 and the drivers you have stored on your hard drive. It's a standard installation from here on out.
I had only two problems: