Freesoft Project Archives

This page contains archives of the freesoft project, which aimed to port NetBSD or GNU/Linux to the Humanware Braille/VoiceNote line of products. This project is not affiliated in any way with Humanware. The freesoft project was discontinued due to lack of hardware to work with and a dwindling developer team.

The utilities we used are memdiv, and wconfig. Both utilities are written by Sabahattin Gucukoglu. The memdiv utility divides RAM on the BrailleNote so as to allow booting a Linux or NetBSD kernel. This utility is run on the BrailleNote itself. The wconfig utility generates a configuration file which can be used by hpcboot.exe, the boot loader which boots a NetBSD kernel.

The boot loader we used for the Linux kernel was CyaCE written by Bradley D. LaRonde, which seems to no longer be available. Our efforts to create a GNU/Linux based distribution for the braillenote are documented in the notelinux list archives

Documenting What We Know

Below is an attempt to summarize progress of the freesoft development team. We originally started using the linux-vr port of the Linux kernel, but switched to NetBSD because the Linux port for the BrailleNote architecture was discontinued, whereas the NetBSD port was actively maintained. The units we had to work with were the BrailleNote classic, with the original and second edition motherboards.

Sometime in 2004, it was discovered that Pulsedata International (PDI) the forerunner to Humanware, used components in their keybase software which were licenced under the GNU General Public licence. This license requires that work derived from code licensed under it needs to be free to distribute. When this was pointed out to PDI, they eventually released xbase, which can still be had thanks to the Internet Archive project. The release of this material made it possible to examine the windows CE registry. Due to the release of this material, I made the following observations on the notelinux-devel list.

About the Braille Keyboard


So, it looks like the bt keyboard is being emulated in hardware like a regular keyboard, since it appears to be using the standard keyboard driver. I also see the following in the registry:


This, along with the fact that the linux-vr kernel said that it was initializing the touch panel driver, leads me to believe that we have the hardware for a touch panel in the bn, without a touch panel itself being present.

About the Braille Display

About the braille display ...looking at the registry, shows me that com1 is the regular serial port, nothing is mentioned about com2 as far as I can see, com3 is the infrared port, and com4 is the soft modem (this is of course on the original board). So, I'm assuming that the braille display is on com2.

Booting NetBSD

Our road to booting NetBSD on the BrailleNote is documented in these messages to the NetBSD hpcmips list:

message 1

message 2

message 3

message 4

NetBSD Boot Log

The provided output of attempting to boot NetBSD on the BrailleNote was generated on a BrailleNote BT32 classic with original motherboard and a unit with the second edition motherboard.

The Notelinux-devel List

There was also a list called notelinux-devel meant for freesoft developers to discuss technical information among ourselves. Since this list was not publicly accessible, I have decided not to make the archive available, since there was a certain expectation of privacy due to the nature of the list. All the technical information we were able to get is described above. A couple members of the development team have reached out to Humanware asking for technical information, but their requests were ignored.

Go back to my home page.

Valid HTML 4.01!

Last updated on 13 April, 2022.