Linux on the Psion netBook HOWTO

Last modified 9 July 2006. Changes.

This document contains information on how to get a Psion netBook to boot up the Linux operating system, how to subsequently configure the system, and how to obtain, install and use applications suitable for the netBook's limited resources. This document also contains notes on the remaining problems at the moment, and instructions on such things as compiling a custom kernel and assembling a custom OS.IMG file. Framebuffer support is implemented, and X windows is supported. Compactflash, PCMCIA, and touch screen are rudimentarily supported. Many wireless PCMCIA cards will work fine; indeed, in general most PCMCIA devices (16-bit PC Card only!) will work fine. The touchscreen patch is relatively new. The only hold up to a fully functional, operational linbook seems to be that no power management is available (you can't turn the linBook off!). There is no support for sound yet.

Other useful hints may be found on the Linux on Psion 5MX HOWTO. The netBook and 5MX systems have considerable similarity.

Offer (May 2006): An infrared modem is offered for free (shipped anywhere in the world) to anyone who posts a patch for the netbook kernel that enables infrared. However, a patch for proper PCMCIA support is considered more critical and will take precedence if posted prior to, or within a few days of, the infrared patch. Please send inquiries or patches to the OpenPsion mail list.

PDF Version of this HOWTO (1.4 MB)

Please post information, questions, FAQ (with answers?) to the openpsion mail list.

Table of Contents
1. Disclaimer
2. Credits
3. Introduction
3.1. A Note to EPOC Users Thinking of Migrating to Linux
3.2. What Works, Generally
3.3. What Doesn't Work, Specifically
3.4. The netBook Specifications
3.5. The Booting Problem
3.6. Malaysian netBooks
4. Installation to Initrd
4.1. Getting the things you need
4.2. Backup EPOC
4.3. Configure ArLo
4.4. Booting and Rebooting
5. Installation to Compactflash
5.1. Getting the things you need
5.2. Configure ArLo
5.3. Repartition your Compactflash Card
5.4. Swap Space Comments
5.5. Install the new system on the Compactflash Card
5.6. Alternate Installation: An OS.IMG for linux
5.7. Appendix: The /linuxrc script
6. Using Bookboot - the Linux OS.img
6.1. Making your own OS.img
6.2. Memory Configuration
7. Using ArLo - Booting Linux from EPOC
7.1. Introduction/Example Configuration File
7.2. ArLo Kernel Memory Configuration Options
7.3. Howto Boot ArLo First in EPOC
7.4. ArLo Memory Limitations
8. X Windows
8.1. Introduction
8.2. A Working X Server
8.3. Touch Screen
8.4. Using Keylaunch
8.5. X modules
8.6. Keys
8.7. X Window Managers
8.8. Alternate Window Systems - Microwindows, Opie, Picogui, Minigui
8.9. Debugging Notes
8.10. Alternate (not altogether working) X Servers
9. Optimization and Adjustments
9.1. Settings in /proc/
9.1.1. /proc/sys/vm/laptop_mode
9.1.2. /proc/sys/cpu/0/
9.1.3. /proc/netbook/
9.2. IDE Disk Performance
9.3. System and Hardware Clocks
10. Applications
10.1. Installing Packages
10.2. Editors and Word Processors
10.3. Spreadsheets
10.4. Web Browsers
10.5. Calculators - RPN and otherwise
10.6. GPS on the netBook
10.7. Dictionary
10.8. Astronomical netBook
10.9. Games
10.10. Movie/Video Players
10.11. Compiling the Kernel or Applications with GCC
10.12. Web Servers
10.13. Misc Notes - Man Pages
10.14. Java
11. Serial Ports
11.1. Onboard Serial Port
11.2. Infrared Serial Port (Doesn't Work)
11.3. PCMCIA Serial Port
12. Using a Mouse
12.1. A WARNING on using the netBook's onboard serial port with a mouse.
12.2. Using the onboard serial port with a mouse
12.3. Using a PCMCIA serial port with a mouse
12.4. Using a mouse with X windows
12.5. Mouse types to consider
12.6. Mouse troubleshooting
12.7. Using a USB or bluetooth mouse
13. PPP from the netBook
13.1. Connecting to the desktop with PPP
13.2. Telnet/rsh/ssh
13.3. Connecting to the internet using an external modem
14. Making Presentations Using a VGA-out PCMCIA Card
14.1. Starting the X server
14.2. Window managers
14.3. Slide presentations
15. External IDE Devices using a PCMCIA Adapter
15.1. PCMCIA IDE Hard Disk
16. Resources/Links
16.1. The OpenPsion Website
16.2. netBook Linux Distributions
16.2.1. Openembedded Linux on the netBook (IPKG based)
16.2.2. Debian Linux on the netBook (DPKG based)
16.3. IPKG and DEB Feeds
16.5. Plp Tools
16.6. ArLo
16.7. Bookboot
16.8. Proboot
16.9. Precompiled Kernels
16.10. Initial Ramdisks (initrd's)
16.11. The Mail List
16.12. netBook Stripped!
16.13. The "simputer", from India
16.14. RISC OS on a netBook
17. Poor Man's Linux's: XTM and ELKS, or EPOCemx
17.1. XTM and ELKS
18. Kernel Development
18.1. Wish List
18.2. Kernel Development Needs
19. Recipe for Compiling the Kernel
19.1. Preferred Cross-compiler: Scratchbox
19.2. Qemu and Debian Linux - a Complete Emulated System
19.3. Cross-compiler Alternative: The emdebian cross compiler for Debian Woody
19.4. Get kernel files and patches
19.5. Compile
19.6. Compiling and Installing Modules
20. Developer's Notes
20.1. Some Documentation
20.2. PCMCIA
20.3. Compactflash
20.4. PCMCIA/CF pinouts
20.5. LCD/Framebuffer Driver
20.6. IRDA
20.7. Ramdisks/ramfs/tmpfs
20.8. Power Control
20.9. Keyboard
20.10. Arlo Needs
20.11. Sound
20.12. SanDisk 128MB + Wi-Fi CompactFlash ideal wireless solution?
20.13. Initial Ramdisks (initrd's)
21. FAQs
21.1. Why do the URL's of the HOWTO pages keep disappearing/changing?
21.2. How can I type the pipe (|) character?
21.3. Is there any size limit to the compactflash or microdrives that are supported?
21.4. Compare and contrast compactflash or microdrives for me please?
21.5. How can I get the kernel to boot directly without having to boot up EPOC?
21.6. Are there any EPOC backup solutions that don't require the desktop software?
21.7. Can I plug in a serial mouse to the serial port and use a mouse that way? [Yes, but be a little wary.]
21.8. Can you tell me the specifications of the netBook's serial port?
21.9. Are There Any Issues with the Malaysian netBooks?
21.10. What Are the Kernel Differences Between Series 7/netBook?
21.11. What Effect Does a Memory Upgrade Have/Is All Memory Recognized?
21.12. Is it safe to send my netBook through an airport X-ray machine?
21.13. Is possible to rebuild the netBook's Lithium-Ion battery pack with new batteries?
21.14. How can I manually unpack an *.ipk package?
21.15. How can I manually unpack a *.deb file?
22. Floating Point Emulation Notes
22.1. 3. What's the difference between gcc soft-float support and the kernel NWFPE/FastFPE support?
22.2. 4. Can I use both hard & soft float at the same time, or must I choose one of them?
23. Extracting a Zaurus ROM (MTD and JFFS2) filesystem
23.1. MTD support on your system
23.2. Extracting the Zaurus filesystem
24. Changes

1. Disclaimer

This is the method generally used for installing and configuring Linux for the Psion netBook. It may not yet work for you. It may make your netBook blow up and your house fall down, for all I know. It might even steal your girl (or boy) friend and leave you in the gutter begging for beer money with only bent floppy disks to your name. Don't blame anybody if something goes wrong, and your tears will fall on deaf ears, so to speak. That said, if you have any problems you can always post a query on the mailing list (send e-mail to: Somebody there will likely be able to, but nobody is obligated to, assist you. Make sure you backup, backup, backup!!!

In short, we are not responsible.

This is what might happen:

so you are duly warned.

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