Linux on the Psion 5MX/5MX-PRO HOWTO

Last modified 9 July 2006. Changes.

This document shows how to get a Psion 5MX or 5MX-PRO to boot up the Linux operating system, how to subsequently configure the system, and how to obtain, install and use applications suitable for the 5MX'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. The framebuffer and X windows are supported. Compactflash, touch screen, and serial ports are supported. Now even sound and recording are supported!

This HOWTO is a new rendering of the original 5MX HOWTO with corrections and updates. It isn't perfect, but it is better.

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

PDF Version of this HOWTO (about a MB )

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

Table of Contents
1. Disclaimer
2. Credits
3. Introduction
3.1. Why Linux on the 5mx?
3.2. What Works, Generally
3.3. Psion Series 5mx/5mxPRO Specifications
3.4. An OpenPsion Screenshot!
4. How Does It Work?
5. Preparation
6. Copying Files to the Psion and Making Partitions on the Compactflash Disk
6.1. Serial Ports, Minicom, and Comms
6.2. PLP Tools
6.3. Partitioning the Compactflash using initrd
6.4. Partitioning, Formatting, and Copying to Compactflash using a Desktop Computer
6.5. Using RSH/RCP and PPP Between the Desktop and OpenPsion
7. Compactflash Comments
8. Booting using ARLO
8.1. Installing ARLO
8.2. Getting a kernel
8.3. Getting the kernel booted from EPOC
8.4. Autobooting ARLO from reset
8.5. How do I get back to EPOC?
9. Using Your New System
9.1. Mounting /proc and Compactflash Partitions
9.2. The Keyboard and Setting Keys
9.3. Setting the Font
9.4. Setting Framebuffer Depth
9.5. Pointers and Things that Work
9.6. /etc Adjustments
9.7. /proc Adjustments
9.8. Keeping Time Between Reboots
9.9. The Real Time Clock, /dev/rtc
9.10. Installing New Packages
10. Serial Connections and PPP
10.1. Serial Connection: Wire
10.2. Serial Connection: Infrared/IRDA
10.3. Running Getty's
10.4. Setting up PPP
10.4.1. Connecting the Psion to the Desktop
10.4.2. Connecting the Psion to the Internet Using an External Modem
11. Using Sound
11.1. Working Features
11.2. Devices
11.3. Setting an Alarm
11.4. Sound Details
12. Installing PicoGUI Windowing
13. Installing X Windows
13.1. An X on OpenPsion Screenshot!
13.2. Prerequisites
13.3. Packages to Install
13.4. Configuring the Blackbox Window Manager
13.5. Using the extra-screen icons
13.6. Mouse Issues
13.7. Keyboard Issues
13.8. Useful X applications
13.9. Using a serial mouse!
14. Memory Issues
15. Freeing Up Disk Space
16. Cross Compiling a Kernel for the 5MX
16.1. Prerequisites
16.2. The Cross Compilation Environment
16.3. Compiling a Kernel
16.4. Kernel Modules
17. FAQ
17.1. Please see the FAQ on the main OpenPsion page (FAQ) for other possible FAQ.
17.2. Q: Which Psion 5MX model do I need (16, 24, or 32Mb)?
17.3. Q: How come after OpenPsion boots up the text is faded so as to be illegible?
17.4. Q: My disk gives errors when my psion wakes up from sleep mode, or otherwise?
17.5. Q: Can I have a dual boot system (EPOC and linux)?
17.6. Q: How come when I turn my psion off for the night, it turns itself back on again?
17.7. Q: How do I get the bar "|" or grave "`" keys?
18. Resources
18.1. The OpenPsion Website
18.2. The 5MX Pages
18.3. Plp Tools
18.4. ARLO
18.5. Proboot for 5MX PRO
18.6. Kernel Sources
18.7. Precompiled Kernels
18.8. Initial Ramdisks (initrd's)
18.9. The Mail List
18.10. The Psion PDA Graveyard (sob.)
19. Changes

1. Disclaimer

This HOWTO describes installing and configuring Linux on the Psion 5MX/5MXPro. There are no guarantees, and the procedures described here may turn your Psion into a brick/doorstop (well, not likely, but possible - a hard reset fixes most everything on a 5MX, besides outright hardware failures). Don't blame anybody if something goes wrong. That said, if you have any problems you can always post a query on the mailing list (send e-mail to: OpenPsion mail list ( ). Somebody there will likely be able to, but nobody is obligated to, assist you.

Make sure you backup, backup, backup!!!

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