The Netpliance I-Opener was an Internet appliance sold a few years ago. Like many devices of this type, it's mostly just a stripped down, single-purpose computer, with a specialized operating system. It was designed to connect up to Netpliance, and through them, access the Internet. They sold these as cheaply as $99, with the assumption that the monthly revenue from the dialup Internet service would sustain them.
The "problem" was that they largely used commodity PC components. It became quickly apparent that the devices could be modified and an arbitrary operating system loaded instead of the default, specialized, Netpliance OS. As word spread, retailers sold out of the devices fast. I nabbed two of the devices after driving 45 minutes into Illinois (they were sold out everywhere locally).
What followed was a cat-and-mouse game where Netpliance would modify shipping units and hackers would find ways of circumventing the modifications. Poor contractual arrangements on the part of Netpliance meant they were selling these things at a loss (expected), without any guarantee that the customers would actually sign up with their monthly service (unexpected).
Netpliance went out of business shortly afterward.
I still have one of the devices here, and sold the other one on eBay for roughly what I paid for it.
I became very active early on with the I-Opener community and with all of the redundant questions flying around, I took the opportunity to create the FAQ for the effort.
The main effort's mailing list was largely overwhelmed by noobs and people upset that they had ended up getting an I-Opener that had some of the anti-hacking countermeasures. There was lots of ridiculous talk about lawsuits, revenge, whatever. The technical discussions, about how to actually do useful things with it, were drowned out. I did what you don't normally want to do in situations like this and set up a parallel mailing list for those actually doing the hardware hacking. This let us focus on the device and ignore the noise that was swamping the main list.
Over time, the cries for class action lawsuits died down and I retired the list. The archive appears here, for historical purposes.
To supplement the I-Hack mailing list and our technical focus, I took the role of secretary here and documented the technical contributions that were made there. This is still a good resources for some of the technical aspects of the I-Opener that aren't covered in the FAQ.
Early on it was apparent that not all units were identical. In addition, there were contributors to the mailing list that weren't able to obtain a device, but they had experience with these types of appliance and wanted to help us out. To that end, I took a series of pictures of the internals of the appliance and posted them here.