Not to hijack the thread, but aren't we supposed to be talking about Archos 5 vs netbooks? I thought the development ideas were much more topical, dealing with development environments.
So question to kb and others with experience with these kinds of things: is the only thing in this device stopping us from putting our own OS on it is the boot loader, stored somewhere in a BIOS of sorts, that loads Archos firmware upon boot?
Sort of. Without getting root access to the units (and we don't know how to do that with the later ones), the only way to get firmware into flash is by the unit's firmware update process, and the Archos won't install firmware for which is crypto signature doesn't check out. It's strong crypto and won't be broken by brute force methods, I think.
Even if you can get root access, the bootloader checks crypto signatures in flash so, even if you can write the flash, you'll most likely end up with a brick unless you can hack out the crypto checks. In the early 605s the boatloader was in a part of flash that was writeable so it was possible, in principle, to hack out the checks. I believe a number of people ended up with bricks by trying it. I didn't try it because I didn't want to gamble my own 605
In the later 605s, and most likely in the 5's, the bootloader itself was not writable, so you couldn't hack out the crypto signature checks even in principle.
It's all a great deal of hassle, to be honest.