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Neil Franklin's Palmtop Selection Page
After I had used for 3 years a HP 100LX its limitations
(80186, CGA, slow, only DOS, app100 limits, only one program
at a time) were going on my nerves. I wanted a
machine that fits in my coat pocket and will run Linux
(at least a 386).
Once I had selected a machine I needed room for Linux,
so I went looking for an as large as possible Flashdisk (I
needed PCMCIA Type II size).
Also I wanted Ethernet, so that I could at home use the palmtop from my
desktop keyboard and monitor.
This Page describes my experiences on the search for such a
machine and in using it.
Various Palmtops I looked at
They have no Web site, so I got their paperware. It has
an AM386SXLV with 2 or 4 MB RAM, 2 PCMCIA type II slots, CGA
graphics in B&W. But it can only use 640k for the OS, the rest is
RAM disk, that fails Linux. It is also too big for a pocket
(slightly larger than the Toshiba below), no use as agenda,
needs to be carried as piece of luggage, then a real laptop is preferable.
Has an i486SX33, 8 or 20 MB RAM, 3.8 MB flashdisk, a PCMCIA type
III slot, VGA graphics in colour, 4.7" LCD. Linux runs on it. It is small
enough for a pocket. In the end I got myself a PC110.
Toshiba Libretto 20
Toshibas official press release: Beware of the large
pictures (even the tables of technical data are GIFs).
It has a Pentium 75, 8 to 24 MB RAM, 270 MB HD, a PCMCIA type II slot,
VGA graphics in colour, 6.1" TFT LCD. It's just that bit too big
for me, but a real harddisk and still a PCMCIA slot free
(for an Ethernet card) is nice. In the mean time replaced by the Libretto
30, 50, 50CT, 70CT (up to Pentium 120, 1.6 GB HD.
HPs official press release: Note that the text "preliminary
specifications" near the bottom is actually a link, but not
It only runs Windows CE, from ROM, too little RAM for Linux.
Various Flashdisks I looked for
Sundisk, I could not find a site called www.sundisk.com, but
ACE Technologies: They
only had up to 40MB size, I wanted at least 80MB.
Seagate: these had
bought Sundisk. But their site only showed harddisks, no
IBM main site and
storage division: I
had heard that they also make Flashdisks, but their pages
P.S: if you want to see what HTML/GIF can do, look at
this page, but beware of extremely long download time!
Sandisk: I had heard that they
had changed their name. Yes here there are Flashdisks, up to
80MB. So I got one of these. Interestingly on booting
its IDE controller actually identifies itsself as Sundisk, not Sandisk,
so they did rename.
Getting an Ethernet Card
I wanted a PCMCIA Ethernet card, that shurely works under Linux. So
I ordered a card from a colleague, who has one running
(IBM Credit Card Ethernet Adapter).
As it is unfortunately usual in the computer industry the specification of
this card was completely replaced at this time (new IBM EtherJet
Ethernet Adapter). Result: the card didn't work.
After a while an other colleague, who had the same problem
driver for the EtherJet.
Experiences using the PC110
I have Linux 2.0.27 (Debian 1.2 distribution) running on am IBM PC110
with 80MB flashcard and 10base2 Ethernet since 1997.05.
Linux works, for sufficiently small values of "works".
To be precise:
- Installing was a bitch. My PC110 has a flaky floppy
controller that works under DOS (and booting Linux kernal) but
fails under Linux (mounting the root
floppy). Generally the quality of the PC110 is problematic, but
I would still get one, 2 colleagues floppies work
as they should under Linux).
My desktop has no PCMCIA. But I succeeded by installing
a basic system onto the flashcard from an colleagues notebook. Then
I booted from that and installed an
minimal system onto the internal flashdisk. Then I made a
reduced version (70MB) of my desktop Linux in an second
partition and then copied it via SLIP and NFS over to the flashcard.
Then set up PCMCIA and Ethernet
- On the internal 3.8MB Linux simply works, if you can live
in the crunch (100k data, 100k free)
- On the PCMCIA Flashcard LILO has failed so far (install on hdc1
which ist then hda1 when booting). I will need to patch it, but
have no time to do so :-(. At the moment I use the LILO on the
internal flashdisk to boot from the external
- XFree works, sort of. I get an stripey fuzzy picture,
also it draws extremely slowly. I first suspected the
Modeline. One colleague had Xfree working but then destroyed his
XF86config. In the mean time it is sure, that my PC110 is also here
- The entire rest works as it it supposed to. I run a full 6 gettys (6
console, 1 ttyS), inetd, ftp, ssh, Apache, Squid, Junkbuster, Lynx
on it, even Netscape "works" if you ignore Xfree making a
mess of it. I went on 4 weeks of summer holiday with only the PC110
and wrote ca 100k text for 2 projects on it. Thanks to multitasking
with all important data only one Ctrl-Alt-Fn away
I the mean time the PC110 has met real life.
Since then I have no palmtop at all in regular use.
- 2 falls from 2 and 1 1/2 metres onto the floor have strongly
damaged the casing. The closing catch and the automatic
on/off switching are broken. But the electronics run
- Because of the XFree I sent it in for repair.
There it was prononced OK, so it is simply incompatible.
Since then the floppy doesn't run at all, not even under DOS
- XFree does run if you only want 16 colors, just Netscape will not
run. So I have deleted XFree entirely. I use 80x30 console
- After 2 years the battery died
At the moment there exist only non satisfying new alternatives:
With memory expansion and
uCLinux this would be usable. But hand writing recognition is not my
thing. And 160x160 pixels are a joke. And the memory is too small for
Also hand writing recognition. Also 320x240 is a joke. And Microsoft.
Nice keyboard and display. Linux available. But only 1 CF slot, no
PCMCIA slot. Still most liekly the best.
HP Jornada 710/720
Nice keyboard and display. CF und PCMCIA. No Linux. WinCE/Microsoft.
Nice keyboard and display. Palmtop and mobile phone in one. No Linux.
And still no GPRS.
Device would be great. But the Displays are not available. And I am
no a Borg.
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This page is by Neil Franklin, last modification 2002.03.07