Re: [pc110] Linux on PC110

Vaughan R. Pratt (pratt nospam at
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 14:42:11 -0700

I would like to run DOS/WINDOWS on it and (after falling
completely in love with emacs and other unix goodies) Linux. I
am now wondering how viable the linux wish is?

Well, maybe it's because I'm more familiar with Linux than any other
system, but I've found it very flexible.

For the first year (I bought my first PC110 in March 96) I ran Linux
and Windows on the 340MB drive. However I've recently started using a
15MB SanDisk compactflash plus the 4MB internal flash for Linux,
freeing up *two* PCMCIA slots. I've been able to fit X-windows,
Netscape, latex, and all the tex fonts CS researchers tend to use
including their xdvi counterparts. No gcc though, but this becomes
possible along with a lot of other stuff using Hitachi's just-announced
30MB compactflash, looking forward to getting one of these (anyone know
of a source?). However what I currently do about gcc and other stuff
is carry the 340MB hard drive along on trips and plug it in in place of
the modem/ethernet/SCSI-card (or even with one of them by using an
extender card). Best of all worlds that way.

Who needs two PCMCIA slots for a palmtop? Well, I'm looking get either
Metricom or CDPD. Metricom is a lot cheaper and has slightly better
performance, but with CDPD you can put Sierra Wireless's two Type II
cards or Inet Spider's Type III card in the PCMCIA slot so the whole
unit can fit in your pants pocket (modulo the unsightly bulge).
Metricom regrettably is not interested in supplying a PCMCIA modem.
Also GTE's coverage is a lot wider than Metricom's.

Can I run it on the PC110 and get a decent performance?

Just like any 486SX-33, i.e. no floating point and compiling the kernel
takes an hour or more. About a third to a half the speed of a

How does X work with the small screen?

No worse than Win95. I'm fairly shortsighted (around +3.5 diopters,
i.e. needing correction of -3.5), for which a comfortable viewing
distance is 9", making the 4.7" screen equivalent to 9.4" at the more
normal viewing distance of 18". You can get the same effect with
strong reading glasses.

Amanda Walker recently posted the following tip to comp.sys.palmtops,
which is good if you plan to keep Personaware on the internal flash and
don't need to access it from Linux.

>Linux, FreeBSD, and such are much happier if you issue the command
>"PS2 _ nospam at ATA PRIMARY" to tell the PC110's BIOS that an ATA card should be
>mapped to the primary IDE address instead of the secondary one (which
>does work, but is slightly more hassle to set up most of the time).
>The only change this makes is that if you boot off of an ATA card, you
>won't be able to access the internal 4MB flash drive, but it means the
>default installation process for most UNIX flavors will work correctly
>the first time.

I might try this for a second try at installing Solaris on a 340MB
drive---no luck first time I tried it, and I have no idea how one
installs it other than via Sun's procedure. (Oh, I remember the
problem, I couldn't figure out how to get Solaris 2.5 to find the
CD-ROM, a Sony PRD-650 on an Adaptec Slim-SCSI card. Wonder if Sun has
a driver update for that by now?)

I have no idea whether a usable subset of Solaris can be installed
manually on the compactflash, nor Win95 for that matter. Linux is very
flexible in that respect, in fact before I got the compact flash I was
able to install Linux without X but with basic networking
(telnet/ftp/rlogin and their daemons) on the 4MB internal flash alone.

Vaughan Pratt