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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.

Palmtop mail discussions (mostly in German)

Various Palmtops I looked at

ProLinear PalmBook

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.

HP 320LX

HPs official press release: Note that the text "preliminary specifications" near the bottom is actually a link, but not coloured.

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 see below.

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 Flashdisks.

IBM main site and storage division: I had heard that they also make Flashdisks, but their pages show none.
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 a 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:

I the mean time the PC110 has met real life.

Since then I have no palmtop at all in regular use.


At the moment there exist only non satisfying new alternatives:

3Com PalmPilot

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 Emacs.

WinCE PocketPC

Also hand writing recognition. Also 320x240 is a joke. And Microsoft.

Psion 5/5MX/5MXpro

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.

Nokia Communicator

Nice keyboard and display. Palmtop and mobile phone in one. No Linux. And still no GPRS.

MIT Wearables

Such an 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