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Debian On Compaq's iPaq Handheld 104

ArsonSmith writes: "It seems that at they have been able to get Debian GNU/Linux up and running on the Compaq iPaq PocketPC. This seems to be the first main distribution to be running on a handheld." The Debian Way may sometimes seem ponderous and conservative, but obviously that's not always the case. How'd you like to be able to apt-get new apps on your PDA? This is a detailed description which should interest anyone lucky enough to have one of these cuties.
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Debian On Compaq's iPaq Handheld

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  • One only needs a BSD

    From our great friends and minds at NetBSD [] -- []

  • While many people have mentioned, I just thought I'd point out that Transmeta is working on PocketLinux, a Linux distribution for handhelds, and is initially targeting the V-Tech Helio and the iPaq. Information at [].
  • Erm.
    Sorry, but you lose.
    1) Saying "I am going to marked down to -1 for this, I'm such a rebel!" is pathetic. Its sad that some moderators still fall for it.
    Why can't there be a "-1 Asked for it"
    moderation option?

    2) Linux is a kernel - it provides an API to program to. It has no CLI or GUI in the kernel.
    *Any* user interface is "another layer".
    On an iPaq, it makes sense to have a gui.
    Of course you could stick it in the kernel,
    but why? There is no guaranteed performance
    improvement. Sticking things in the kernel
    randomly is generally a bad thing. Especially if your reason is "another layer"... its called abstraction, folks!

    Using linux gives a familiar platform for development, and it is easy to port.
    Why the hell is it *bad* to port?

    Of course, it would be better if the whole
    world ran eros - - but it would need to be finished first... and linux is the best bet currently.
  • Well, I wouldn't want it :) I want an uber-simple interface for my little Palm. I love the PalmOS and UI. It is, in my wacky opinion, the best of all possible worlds :)
    And this was completely contentless, oi! I need sleep.
  • Are you 'smooge' or just copied his post?. []

    Smart and funny trolling, anyway. Instructive, too. Are you a 'professional troll', or just couldn't help it?


  • But, I think that, say, a customized version of Midnight Commander could have his role in an organizer.

    DISCLAIMER : I never owned an organiser, nor I will in the near future ( paper scraps fit my needs, for now ).

  • Guys,

    Seriously, what the hairy heck is happenning to /. such tht a "funny" post like this, out of 22 comments, is the only one rated a "5" and, not only that, but is categorized incorrectly. Moderators, clearly you are doing something wrong here...

    Specifically speaking, Moderators, read -1 on up and please don't read them sorted. Quality posts should be "5"s and not drivel like this.

  • I saw quite a few posts from people wondering why in the world anyone would want Linux on a PDA -- the main reason being the interface. You can't run shell commands using graffiti. Hacking in vi? Forget it.

    But what about Psion? Has everyone forgotten about the Psion handhelds? They have *keyboards*. And the Revo model isn't much bigger than a Palm VII. Now that is a PDA I can imagine Linux on. So does Linux belong on a PDA? Well, if you have one with a keyboard then maybe. Although I've never heard of anyone putting Linux on a Psion, it seems like a much better target to shoot for than any Palm style handheld.

    Of course, the Psions already have a pretty good OS on them. All you really need to use is the Telnet program and then you can remotely access a Linux machine anyway. I actually like it better this way, since I can start remote tasks and then disconnect my Psion from the 'net (all via my Nokia 8890). Remote Linux is the way to go. It turns your PDA into the power of whatever server you connected to.

    Of course, this only applies to PDA's with a *keyboard* and a *telnet* application. Frankly, I don't understand why the Psions are never mentioned here on Slashdot. With all the hype about Unix here, you'd think everyone would be using a Psion by now. Try rebuilding a kernel from your Palm toy.
  • Great, I think you should get Debian/Linux running on as many things as possible, practical or not.

    It's a good sturdy distribution, obviously well-designed for porting to other platforms, and it is easy to cut it back to the barest essentials because of its philosopy of lots of little packages rather than a few big ones.

    Then when you have Debian/Linux, one day you can move to Debian/HURD which should have a smaller and more modular kernel perhaps better suited to 'small' hardware.

    But even if neither is actually very useful, without some Free software presence in a given market sector, there is little or nothing to stop software becoming ever more closed and expensive.

    Of course what I really want is Debian/Plan9 - but in the meantime Debian/Linux is as I say, a good place to start.

  • Quake will take a little while longer. If anybody knows of any work being done on Linux Quake running on an ARM platform, I would appreciate you letting me know.

    That would kind of depend on whether Mesa software rendering is supported in StrongARM... And whether it'd fit of course ;)

    Your Working Boy,
  • If I buy one of these and pay for Billware, I want to keep it available. For games, eh? I look at the Compaq page and it's not clear at all whether I can run Linux off of flash, and retain Windows, or maybe swap chips around when I want to change O/S, or what the heck. Can anyone explain? Is LILO a possibility ?
  • Two things :
    1 - Do you think/know that PalmOS GUI is *embedded* in the kernel ? I find it difficult to believe (though it could be). A 'logical' design would suggest that the GUI is a layer on the top of the kernel.Granted, X is too heavy for today handhelds (it's too heavy for many old PC, too )
    2 - I'm not sure that you need a *graphical* interface in an handheld. Text-based widget libraries (ncurses?), with support for mouse (gpm-like) could give the same functionalities of a graphical interface (menu, windows, pop-ups, buttons, ... ) with very minimal resource requirements. And think of the Linux virtual consoles : just tremove the need for multiple login and you have already 'desktop workspaces' almost out-of-the-box.
    Granted, graphical interfaces have an higher cool-factor, and seems to be more marketable. But a well-designed text based interface could close the gap, IMO.

    That's it. For not having ever used an handheld, I talked too much.
    Just my 20 lire, anyway.

  • I want ease of programming and compatability.

    I have plans for a PIM that works on the desktop and palmtop. With a linux handheld I can write the same back end and change a few things (display, interaction) on the front end. I CANNOT do that on the 3COM or windows products as easily. Realize that PalmOS HAS NO FILESYSTEM accesible by programs. None, notta, all they have is executables and databases. No way to use fils system hiearchy to your advantage.

    I want to write my programs in mature, free, multi machine, multi operating system languages.

  • Many modern PDAs have very fair RAM capacity, CPU speed, flash mem capacity, etc. I don't speak about Palms -- more about WinCE-targeted devices, like iPAQ. No wonder that linux kernel can nicely work there (especially when you build it right). But most current GUIs that linux uses were developed with desktop in mind and are not so great on a PDA. That is, when a decent PDA-oriented GUI becomes available for linux, it will be a very viable PDA OS choice :-) Porting existing (not still ideal for PDAs) linux distros to PDA platforms must help in developing a PDA-oriented GUIs and other tools for linux, so, Debian did a useful (not just 'cool' or such) job, IMHO.
  • Not Transmeta. Transvirtual [] .


  • > 1) Now, let's look at Linux. No graphical interface, natively anyway. To get the GUI, you need an extra layer of programming

    Look, I hate X as much as the next guy, but despite MS's best efforts, windows uses an "extra layer of programming" as well, called GDI. Yes, it's been made to run in kernel space, and Linux has framebuffers that do as well -- it's not a big stretch to imagine moving other display code into the kernel as well (KGI anyone?). X sucks, but there is nothing about Linux OR Windows that magically does graphics without a graphics API.

    And get over your self-important persecution complex about "I'm going to get moderated down over this". Either it happens and you leave slashdot for kuro5hin or advogato, or it doesn't, but it's gotten really old to read this prediction of moderation behavior over and over.
  • Whoah! You gotta love a project with a cute little pockert sized penguin like that!

    Pokeguin anyone?
    "Give the anarchist a cigarette"
  • and its more than two and a half times faster than my poor cyrix 5x86-100 laptop that I do all my programming on (it gets somewhere around 33).
  • Even if you had hardware compatibility, the interface is sufficiently different that you would want apps written for it anyway.

    For example, you really only want something to jot notes in a square window, not a full-fledged word processor, because a handheld (Palm-style at least) is a crappy word processing platform anyway. Think notepad vs typewriter.

    People tend to use handhelds differently, too. I find I use my Palm in lots of short bursts, not for a prolonged period of time. Thus, the simple fast interface is a lot better than a complicated power user interface.

    Anyway, there have been handhelds that were able to run DOS and Windows programs, I think HP made one, and they didn't set the world on fire. They never really took off because the machines were underpowered compared to a PC and the tiny screens and keyboards were awkward to use.

  • Wait a minute, there are drivers already for the NIC / wireless functionality? And, you spent ca. US $1,100 for the ;base station + 1 wireless NIC [] from Compaq to watch/do wireless streaming video? Not to mention CF/PC cards---or a pedestrain modem [], for me? I am wondering how feasible/affordable is this kind of talk. I envy your disposable income level -- really. If what you mention is available under Linux, then fabulous! I'm not sure it is though. Please prove me in the wrong.

    Me pican las bolas, man!
  • The iPAQ isn't a MIPS machine. It runs on a 200MHz StrongARM (SA110) processor, just like the Netwinder []. There is no NetBSD port for the Netwinder OR the iPAQ.

    So no, NetBSD has not been there OR done that.

  • Does anyone know of any Palm style handwriting recognition/input software running on linux? Preferable Free Software?

    Is there a project anywhere?

  • Actually, I was going the other way... Why would you want linux on your portable?

    I can conjecture only two reasons:

    1. Just cause you can. Thats always a good reason to run linux.

    2. Because its not MS, or Palm, or alternatively its open-source.

    Really though, are we expecting a great deal more functionality to come out of a linux palm/pocket pc? I cant imagine any needing to run apache on a MIPS based portable-pc, but who knows.

  • Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these? :P
  • Those are some pretty broad and sweeping claims to say that basically most every major software player gets ideas from debian, any conspiracy theories to back this up?
  • NetBSD/hpcmips has been running on the MIPS based Windows CE for about a year now. It has been booting on these devices longer than Linux has been!

    The big problem is that There's a Linux bias on slashdot. They don't report these sorts of things too often.

    *BSD is actually easier to port to new architectures because it has been ported to many architectures.

  • Why does Linux have to run on *everything*?

    Well, I think it's less that you have one more platform for linux and more that you have an open source OS for that device.

    This way, you have an OS that you know /everything/ about (due to the source being available) on which to develop/hack whatever functionality you desire.

    The linux OS provides the basic functions of an operating system, and you are able to develop your code.

    I mean, isn't that the point of the whole "freedom" thing?

  • by jjr ( 6873 ) on Friday October 06, 2000 @01:16AM (#727420) Homepage
    (Gawd. I wonder what writing perl would be like on a Palm, using Graffiti, in an airplane that was in turbulence.)

    You would write yourself a readable perl program :-)
  • 1.) now all we need to do is make taco use ispell. ...and get you to use capitals. You shouldn't try to be a member of the English police without putting yourself beyond reproach.

    2.) Nice name-calling. Now we know why you're an AC.

    3.) "2.Unwieldy from weight or bulk." One could easily make the argument that the reason that Debian has such lengthy release cycles is that they like to include absolutely as much software as possible in 'main'. Bear in mind that I have four Linux-based computers (3 home-brew and an IBM Thinkpad) that all run Debian 2.2. I won't use anything else, since I'm addicted to apt.

  • While many people have mentioned, I just thought I'd point out that Transvirtual is working on PocketLinux, a Linux distribution for handhelds, and is initially targeting the V-Tech Helio and the iPaq. Information at
  • The reason we put debian on our iPAQs is it's the closest thing to a handy *real* distribution for ARM out there. The iPAQ is fast enough to do native development on, instead of having to set up a cross-compiler chain.

    My first step in setting up my iPAQ after getting the bootloader and kernel on it was following these instructions, now I can build whatever I want on it over an NFS root.


  • NFS sucks it's neck off (security/perfomance/maintainance/multiplatform ) . Unfortunatly better (free sofware) solutions
    don't really exist.
    • Coda is not production quality
    • Afs requires kerberos
    • SMB doesn't work well in Unixish systems.

    FTP is probably the only protocol simple enough for handhelds anyway...
  • Calibrating delay loop... 87.04 BogoMIPS

    it is quite a bit faster than a p5-133. My p5-133 laptop got 53.04.

    - Bill
  • OK, counterpoint:

    Most of people with Palms hardly use the PDAs for something more complicated than schedule keeping and notes taking. This limits the public to geeky mgmt types (yes I know there are companies that have fully blown ordering systems running on a palm, but they are exemptions, not rules).

    Putting linux on a PDA as long it works with M$ outlook, Lotus Notes and/or OpenMail covers the same market as well as the people who do on site repairs, remote maintenance, network management.

    I do not have a PDA and I will not buy one until I can do usefull stuff with it - namely have a proper network stack and a proper set of tools to do my job (i.e. fix networks and applications). So until I see a PDA with a PCMCIA slot or anything similar where I can stick an ether and/or a wireless lan I will drag my laptop with me.

    Obviously, I would prefer to have something that fits in a pocket and does the same job.

    So it is not a matter of being open, it is neither because you can. The reason is that it will be a dream tool for lots of geeky jobs (as well as have its classic functions).
  • ... in Emacs.

    Too bad there's no graffiti symbol for the Meta key.

  • Remember the old HP hand-held PCs? They ran DOS and had a CLI. Atari made a similar product that was cheaper (in both senses of the word). These definitely qualify as PDAs. I had one of the Atari machines for awhile and it was quite usable. I sold it when I bought my Newton, but I wish I'd kept it because it's more useful than the WinCE machines by a long shot.
  • I completely disagree. We're not talking about a palm, with a ~12 Mhz processor (IIRC). It's an iPAQ. It's got an over 200 Mhz processor. It's more powerful than my old desktop. It can afford to have an extra layer that gives you the extra flexibility to choose which UI you want, and keeps the UI from crashing the whole system.

    Palms are 16-20mhz depending on model.

    I personally want to see a port of AmigaDOS (which ran on a 7.1something MHz 68000, 512kbytes or less ram, 512k rom, and about 500kbytes on floppy) to the Palm. Now THAT would open up some cool apps for handhelds. If only the folks who own Amiga now would open the source for the 1.3 release.

  • The iPAQ palmtop has a 200MHz processor and 64MByte RAM. That's higher powered than my last PC, and much faster than my good ol' Amiga (which is still in active service)

    I would contend that the tech is there, now, the distinction has blurred, and the tech is likely to be based on the processor in an iPAQ, which is a pretty popular CPU.

    Linux is just a kernel - you don't /have/ to run all sorts of Server-type stuff on top of it, it's just people normally plonk the entire GNU Suite plus the X Window System on top of it.

    I, for one, agree that a full blown server installation of linux is near-pointless on such a machine (unless you want a mobile plug-in unit for a (web-site replacement based) disinformation campaign...imagine a james-bond esque figure leaving the iPAQ behind a table tapped into a spare network socket, hijacking IP packets... the mind boggles)

    - But a palmtop-optimised one would be VERY useful - opening an XTerm on my palmtop connecting to a server I'm adminning over my mobile phone (I'm in Ireland, so we've had digital mobile phones for ages), for example.

    I kludged VNC onto a (16MHz, 16MByte) Psion Series 5mx a few months ago - and thus actually opened up a full X desktop on my Psion.

    This is tremendously useful for all sorts of things (at the time, I was messing with development releases of XFree 4, so each time my gfx card crashed, I just reset it remotely, without having to reboot the rest of the system.)

    Since Linux already has all the remote admin infrastructure in place, it'd be great on a palmtop.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linux is in the process of being ported to the Psion as well as many other PDA's based on both MIPS and SH processors. See for more info or for Psion sepecific info. I must agree with many others and and ask the question of why? Running X on a 240x320 screen is not really that fun. Yes, I've done it (The ports are that far along). Also entering command line commands like with a stylus is not that fun either. I think a better GUI needs to be implemented before PDA Linux will be anything other then a geeks wet dream. On the same note PocketLinux seems to be focusing on creating a usable Linux for use on a PDA. The GUI is not X based but rather java based and the apps appear to run full screen (Like they should on a PDA). Either way it all very interesting to watch. Hopefully it will end with PDA's becoming cheaper and more functional.
  • pictures of an iPAQ running the distro are on this page [].
    If you're lazy, the pictures are here [], here [], here [], here [], and here [].

  • and some genius trashes one by throwing LINUX on it? real good.

    I also like the smart replies about Palms. An iPaq does not run PalmOS it runs WinCE (which is probably why they wanted to put Linux on it in the first place)

    And if anyone from Compaq is reading this, could you try to actually make some of these iPaqs? I went to a convention and one of the door prizes was an iPaq -- but they didn't actually have one, they gave him a certificate! Can you imagine?

  • Linux on the iPAQ still needs a good amount of work. Most (nearly all) normal X apps are WAY too big for a 320x240 screen, and most window managers are designed for computers with a mouse and keyboard. When all you have is a pen, all you can do is click and drag. The RTC on the iPAQ *almost* works. Right now it doesn't, so everyone's iPAQ thinks it's December 31, 1969. There's still some bugs with the audio driver, but as of a couple weeks ago IR is working again.

    The point of getting Debian usable on the iPAQ is not so you can have all the whiz-bang-cool X apps and things like that - it's the ability to have a full-fledged development environment on the machine *and* the ability to do native compilation. This will accelerate development of handheld linux (pocketlinux? LinCE?) and is generally a Good Thing, even if it isn't that sexy.

  • Well Windows CE _DOES_ have a TCP/IP stack... and the iPaq has a PCMCIA slot expansion object, and I'm not sure if they're wireless LAN setup is finished or not, but its definitly in the work.
  • by Talonius ( 97106 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:11PM (#727436)
    Where's my pictures?

    I want Linux on a Palm. *blink* Nothing like trying to type in command line commands using Graffiti.

    (Gawd. I wonder what writing perl would be like on a Palm, using Graffiti, in an airplane that was in turbulence.)

    -- Talonius
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Debian showed that OpenSource (or as those offices say rightly Free Software) could be commercially viable and profitable when people said that Stallman was a Communist quack with delusions of being Marx.

    That part of the Debian community is quite proud of that fact and rightly so. Debian's iPaq development came much later in the game... and i dont know of anyone around Debian who would say otherwise.

    Must be a slow week and time for sensationalism sells (Helixcode that is).

  • we can root other people's palms during boring english lectures :)

  • Well lets hope that the companies that make handhelds, see that there IS a market for handhelds that run linux or at the very least can be made to run linux (not everyone may want linux on their portable.. i dont see why though) otherwise this is an interesting factor to look for for those of us that want to get a handheld but dont.
  • right on. is there any word as to whether this will extend past iPaq?

    1. The Meaning of Life []
  • I really don't understand why it should be necessary to *port* programs over to handhelds. The Intel style chipset is versitile enough to work in a handheld easily enough, and Intel componets are certainly cheap enough to use.

    Just think about it... how popular would notebooks be if they wern't intel compatible? I think we've gone down the wrong road with handhelds, and the first to turn things around will be the top dog for the next decade as handheld's poplarity explodes.
  • All I want to ask is why? A desktop distribution (or server) made to run on a PocketPC. Requires constant network connection, and another machine. Seems similar to, oh, WinCE 1.0 and 2.0. Copy Windows 9x interface to PDA, expect it to be useful.

    Compair this to the project to get PDA like features running on Linux on the iPaq PocketPC. And without a network.

    And I'm assuming section 1.2.2 will be how to install into main memory so that a network card could be installed instead of the CF card...
  • by Anonymous Coward xscribble project is open source works great under linux on the iPAQ.
  • Well I've been thinking of things like this.
    Certainly this is interesting for Hack Value, but would anyone seriously want Linux and X running on a machine like this?

    I think that given the size of the screen and the input options for these palmtops, not to mention the cpu/mem constraints dont seem to fit the whole Unix/X way of doing things. I mean are you really going to write a shell script on one of these machines? Do some heavy hacking? I would prefer to develop on an emulator running on a workstation and test on these devices.

    I think PalmOS has done a fine job for the UI on their palm machines, and I can't imagine trying to interact with one of these things with programs running in smaller-than-the-screen windows.

    Then again maybe I'm just getting grumpy in my old age. :P

    Flame away and call me shortsighted if you must.


  • It damn well does what you tell it to. Linux is NOT CLI, linux is a kernel, and a pretty cool one at that.

    And computers need kernels. Now, you can put any layer on top you want, and, BTW, GUI's ALWAYS need an extra layer (its just hidden from you sometimes).

    -- Crutcher --
    #include <disclaimer.h>
  • Erm. "Freedom" doesn't dictate my actions. I use the best tool for the job at hand. Having the source code for anything doesn't mean I know jack about it or that I will even bother learning about it. I know, I know, my loss for being such a goober; I'm just of the opinion that if one tool does not fit my needs, I do not waste time trying to extend it. I get a tool which does.
    Currently, and for the foreseeable future, PalmOS more than provides everything I will need for a PDA.

    Eric ze Kidder
  • It seems to be mostly an advertisement link for his site, which despite how its labelled has nothing to do with Bill Gates being dead.

  • While I agree I dont see why sticking Debian on this was such a great idea.

    Have people ever heard of Lineo? Embeded Linux?

    Really truly if a project to put Linux on a PDA were to be useful beyond the "look what I can do!!", there needs to be some sort of low level graphics system for displaying to things like a palm and such.

    That is a start. Then you need to make this interface useful and easy to use.. IE: you develop on a desktop and then test apps on the PDA. Maybe if you can plug a mini Keyboard into the PDA it would be a little nicer and make it more of a "pocket PC".

    Im trailing off, what I mean is installing a distro like Debian, or whatever on a PDA is kind of useless aside from it being fun to do.

    If.. there was a group actually serious about writing a system in Linux to make PDA's more useful and open to (programmers) then I could truly seing this as beneficial since you would then have the world of Linux at your hands.

    A scaled back version of gnome for PDA's is nice (cough cough) wasnt there a group working on that, whatever happened to them??

    I think some groups are moving in this direction, but I don't really see any concentration of development being done to make headway to making the PDA's useful, I just see peoplke getting their jollies by showing off what they can do :) nothing wrong with this, its fun and you can learn a lot doing stuff like this

    But I do agree its usefuless is truly limited a great deal in usefulness.

  • by mistered ( 28404 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @08:30PM (#727450)
    The Blackberry is actually made by RIM [] (Compaq OEMs it). Yeah, it does have an i386 in it, but it's a very customised 386. RIM & Intel did a lot of work to get a 386 to run on AA batteries.

    Have a look at RIM's "Developer Zone" and specifically their FAQs []. The neat thing about the Blackberry is that it runs Windows .DLLs. RIM provides a simulator that runs on Windows, and provides the same API that the pager does. Instead of interfacing with actual hardware, though, the simulator's API interfaces with a virtual LCD, a virtual keypad, etc. The exact same code runs natively on the development machine and on the pager itself.

  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <> on Thursday October 05, 2000 @08:36PM (#727451) Homepage
    There's a guy in Scandanavia this week that has found an old Honeywell DPS-6 that is trying to figure out if there is any hope of refurbishing it to run Multics. It's a forlorn hope; he might conceivably get it to run GCOS, with a little luck, and perhaps some help from Thinkage. []

    Is this of any practical value? Well, a DPS-6 is likely about as powerful as an 80386, and it won't likely fit in your closet, so it's fair to say that it's not a terribly practical proposal.

    Likewise, an iPaq has a pretty small screen, small memory, small secondary storage, and no keyboard, thus meaning that it's not a vastly practical computing platform on which to run Debian.

    However. Consider two things:

    • With constantly improving hardware, the models out next year might have 64MB of RAM, and we might be able to get cheap 256MB CF cards.

      Which means that while it's not spectacularly useful now, if some people scramble to work on it now, they may start having useful software and configuration tools (and boot tools, and...) by the time the hardware is ready to be really useful.

    • If it is never of practical value, it can still be a cool hack.

      Nobody is going to power up a DPS-6 because they want to run payroll on it, or write TECO macros to calculate Pi because that's a particularly efficient way to do it; they'll do it because they can.

    I think that in another year, there may well be enough hardware on PDAs to usefully run Linux. More power to those experimenting with it now that will make it deployable by then.

  • Those are some pretty broad and sweeping claims to say that basically most every major software player gets ideas from debian, any conspiracy theories to back this up?

    The claims were not all that broad - especially when considering that the reverse is true, too. Debian has obtained one or two things elsewhere - after all, that's what Free really means - sharing of ideas.

    Nonwithstanding, consider software distribution/updates/depencency checks via the internet. Bill Gates may not have gotten the idea directly from Debian, but chances are that someone in Microsoft did, then relayed it up the foodchain. (Tongue-in-cheek to your conspiracy theory reference). RedHat's case seems more obvious, and, indeed, a bit overdue, considering that Mandrake also latched onto the idea a while back.

    So I'll just repeat that the Debian Project is one of the most dynamic playground for idea exchange in today's software landscape. Not even the various *BSDs have a development model that invite the same kind of public participation. Some application specific development efforts, like KDE, Gnome, Mozilla, and Apache are very close, but again, with the development infrastructure, project management, packaging system, and overall cohesiveness of Debian's effort, it remains probably the largest-scale public development effort in the world.

  • ... in Emacs.


  • I've used linux on my palm. It wasn't running on it, but I ran pppd on my computer then connected to it with the palm. Found a nice telnet app so I telnetted in and there I was trying to do command line stuff on a palm. In a few words, it was painful.
  • I still have my Zeos Pocket PC. It had TWO type 1 PCMICA cards. Pretty neat little thing. More info at
  • If you hadn't kindly included that link to, I think I would have instead. (The last set of definitions is the closest in this context, I think.)


  • Actually X on the iPaq is very light and responsive. This whole X is to heavy for my Sparc 128 proc system with 456tera of ram is a bunch of crap. People looking for the next best thing. X is working great. less than 600k on on the ipaq now and plans to shrink it even more don't really seem like to heavy to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like these little things are the perfect platforms for QNX- If only it ran on something other than x86...
  • What a pathetic achievement for Linux: being the first operating system to cause PDA's to crash.
  • how about

    1. when at my desk I can export DISPLAY and do all my heavy work on my desktop and the carry it around with me for easy access.

    2. complete feature set. Drivers for ipv6 coda nfs networking ppp. will you need all of these? maybe not. but what about those that do? they don't have to be there but they can if you want them.

    3. Familiar development API. It will be much easier to use exsiting linux code and scale it down both in *kb and screen size.

    4. Wealth of applications. similar to 3 except many things already exist and work.

    5. No central control. Companies and individuals can add too and change what they think it should be

    6. ok I am out of things for now

  • Currently you can only run linux or CE and restoreing to CE is not really well tested although I haven't heard of anyone killing an iPaq yet. There is a boot loader that must be loaded into flash it is very possible to get this boot loader to load CE or linux from either onboard flash or from the flash card but the work is not complete yet.

    Discamer: I only hang out on the mailing list and make sugestins and play with my iPaq on linux. I haven't actually done any of the work on this but have conversed with the people who are doing it.

    The Arson Smith
  • I had an Atari Portfolio - that had DOS v3 or somesuch on it. You could get a C> prompt if you wanted...
  • Remember, BogoMIPS are how many millions of times a processor can do absolutely nothing in a second. So the only thing that 87.04 tells me is that your processor isn't as good as mine for wasting time. nuf said.
  • I agree. As a rule, before you mark something up past +3, READ ALL THE COMMENTS FIRST. Make sure that before you put a comment past +3 that there isn't a comment posted by an AC languishing at 0 which deserves your moderation.

    Something that is marked at +3 has *already* been recognized as a good comment. Hunt for the gems down low before you make a redundant moderation.

  • by Ondo ( 187980 )
    Transmeta is of course working on Mobile Linux, not PocketLinux.

    I need to stop thinking I can keep this stuff straight from memory, and actually read the page I link to. :)
  • by Unit3 ( 10444 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:31PM (#727466) Homepage
    My first guess would be the heat issue. Every Intel CPU I have ever come into contact with (including the 486 and the P120 beside me, which are the really cheap, low power-style chips like you've suggested) put off a lot of heat. I'm sure it's too much to be squished in with the rest of the tiny handheld circuitry to avoid damage.

  • by Drakino ( 10965 ) <d_slashdot.miniinfo@net> on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:34PM (#727467) Journal
    I think that given the size of the screen and the input options for these palmtops, not to mention the cpu/mem constraints dont seem to fit the whole Unix/X way of doing things

    To some extent true. But keep in mind this little device packs more power then many desktops 5-10 years ago. While input may need to be reworked to be useable with a stylus, the power is exactly why I left my Palm V and got the iPaq. I decided I wanted something more then a PDA, and the name PocketPC is very approiate. I can sit and watch streaming video from anywhere in my house via an 802.11 card in the device. I can carry the device in the same way I did my Palm V, and have so much more potential in my portable gear. All because the engineers finally shrank my computer of years ago into a small form factor with decent battery life and a color screen viewable outside and in. True, storage is a bit low, but nothing a 340 or 1gb microdrive + CF to PCMCIA adaptor + PCMCIA expansion can't solve. (PCMCIA expansion used due to it's own battery to not let the Microdrive suck the device dry quickly).

    In 5-10 more years, just imagine the power of a handheld device, and what it will do to complement your existance with computers.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So this is why they haven't released their magic installer or evolution...
  • The Intel style chipset is versitile enough to work in a handheld easily enough, and Intel componets are certainly cheap enough to use.

    The Compaq iPaq Blackberry wireless e-mail PDA does use an i386 chip inside of it. I definitly have to agree to some extent that it would make running programs on the PDA easier if it had an Intel x86 chip inside, but one problem. The device will be years behind current processing power, and storage will be an issue. Once you dig up Word 6.0, it would run, but Word 6.0 (And other programs) are designed for a keyboard and mouse interface with a decent resolution. Work would still have to be done to change the UI to make it run on a small screen, and by then, it would have been easier to instead make PocketWord, and throw in the benefit of compatibility with 95, 97, and 2000 .doc files.

    I don't see a problem with all handhelds running non Intel x86 chips for now. Once we start all using virtual monitors on these, then it will be useful.
  • Quite true on the power of these things. I started computing with a Trash-80. I'm not saying that linux/X is *bad* for these machines, just that the ui isn't apropriate. I can't imagine doing any real work on one of these. Good folding keyboards may make it happen though.

    Watching streaming video on one of these would definately be cool admittedly, although at that point, why not just a pocket TV? :P

    Now Quake on one of these during those horrid employee meetings...


  • A desktop of some type is almost mandatory on a handheld. I am running Linux v.16 on my iPaq. Right now I am looking at a picture of my sons in one window, a calendar in one window and xclock in another. xfishtank from the Debian Arm distro is running in the background. I wish I had some screenshots. You should see the jaws drop on Palm users when I show them that. ;) Most of the handhelds stuff *IS* Debian, or Debian based. Cpt_Kirks
  • My only question on this is, would you crash the plane, your just your palm, or you whole hand?
  • The obvious application is a combination lunchbag/computer

    I could warm up a haggis by recompiling the kernel

  • <G> okay.. the conspiracy theory comment was out of line :) and really im not very qualified at all to critisize debian I have never even used it :)

  • Great to hear.

    As a user of FreeBSD as well as Linux, why it doesn't it get ported to smaller devices? This may be bit too ignorant for an Ask Slashdot Q, so I am asking here. Anyone have particulars on the issues for (any) BSD to port to smaller devices (i.e.- not just "becuz *BSD sux")?

  • I heard the Quake idea might actually be done. It was prolly just some internal rumor, but it would be a good way for compaq to show off the power of the handheld. As far as the idea of running linux on a PDA, it is pretty absurd to me. I find the main function of linux is superior servering and of course the open sourceness. Now obviously running servers on a PDA is not the brightest idea. The open source part would allow much more customability of a PDA, but think about it. The iPaq is mainly designed to run pocketpc and it is msot functional runnign it. Although linux would be pretty cool it would take some of the functionability out of the device. And after payign 500 dollars for a PDA i'de wnat it to perform optimally.
  • OK, the point has been missed. As expected. I'm replying to this thread because I believe it may come closest to my point.

    You're right, porting ANY multi user evironment to anything as powerful as a 386 is probably useless. Cool, but useless. Now consider this, a PDA is usually less powerful than a 386. Linux has lots of stuff in it that make it cool, however they are major overkill for a PDA. I'm not saying parts are not usable, but again, why adapt something to do what it wasn't meant to do except for the thrill value?

    The other part is, when does your PDA essentially become a laptop? General PDA's have some primary features. They are usually (and I use this loosely) small, minimal features, and consume little power. Laptops, in contrast, are bigger, try to cram as many desktop features in to them as possible, and while less than their desktop counterparts, consume LOTS more power than any PDA.

    So I'm not saying I don't want to run Linux on a portable computer, I do that on my laptop, but not on a PDA. Eventually the distinguishing features will fade, but the point is the tech isn't here now. And the tech that brings this to us isn't likely to be based on the processer in these PDAs. All I'm saying is I think there is a bit of overkill here, featurewise. I'm not against an open source solution, however this one is pretty futile. Kudos for the coolness factor though.

  • by Cire LePueh ( 26571 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @09:27PM (#727478)
    yet here we have people trying to cram a linux kernel in to a PDA. Now I have to ask why.

    Actually if the goal is just to get linux onto another device, you're justification. But the reality in this case is a little bit different from my perspective...
    First off they are developing for a PocketPC (aka WinCE3.0) not Palm. Big ifference in hardware etc.
    I have a Casio E105. Its a really nice little WinCE unit that unfortunately I can not upgrade to PocketPC. So basically no further OS & little application support & development going forward. Now when I invested in this unit (to the tune of $400+) I knew WinCE was going to have a finite life, but knowing that the OS and in rom apps were on a nice daughterboard I figured I would be able to upgrade for a reasonable amount. Woops missed the window, Casio says too bad shell out another $500. (Last Casio I buy)

    I love this PDA, light, powerful, good memory/battery life etc. WinCE2.1 has some bugs and the UI has some issues. Most of the Apps I have loaded (or that came from MS/Casio) are well designed. I do not at all regret getting the Casio. It has served me very well already...but now I have this issue, already WinCe2.1 compatible SW is getting harder to find, and I have no upgrade options available for PocketPC...

    Along comes linux for the VR series of chips...LinuxCE... familiar OS, fairly well developed, Open Source cross compiler, etc etc etc
    Right now I have a fully functional Linux kernel booted up on it with Video, networking, serial, touch panel, sound,CF support etc...running a 2.3.9 kernel. Linux is entirely on a CF card, and I still have WinCE available with a reset. There are a lot of issues with Linux useability on the PDA right now, but they are not what you might think. Software keyboard drivers/apps (like the jot etc) are developing nicely...and userland is starting to be brought over. So it's not there but it is being actively developed and it is using tools I am more familiar with so if I need something or want to give a hand, I dont have to learn as much.

    Now as to power/performance of the CE's part of the boot transcript:

    CyaCE ELF Program Loader
    Detected 32MB of memory. Will use 32MB of it.
    Loading R4000 MMU routines.
    CPU revision is: 00000c60
    32 TLB entries
    Primary instruction cache 16kb, linesize 16 bytes)
    Primary data cache 8kb, linesize 16 bytes)
    No secondary cache
    Setting TLB page size to 4K (CP0_PAGEMASK = 0x00001800)
    Linux version 2.3.9 ( (gcc version egcs-2.90.29 980515 (egcs-1.0.3 release)) #7 Fri Sep 17 21:43:26 EDT 1999
    Using VR41XX TLB exception handler
    Console: colour dummy device 80x25
    Calibrating delay loop... 87.04 BogoMIPS

    and the /proc/cpuinfo:

    # cp /proc/cpuinfo /dev/stdout
    cpu : MIPS
    cpu model : NEC Vr41xx V6.0
    system type : Vr41xx-based Casio E-105
    BogoMIPS : 87.04
    byteorder : little endian
    unaligned accesses : 0
    wait instruction : no
    microsecond timers : no
    extra interrupt vector : no
    hardware watchpoint : yes
    VCED exceptions : not available
    VCEI exceptions : not available

    Now those BogoMIPS aren't anything to scream about by todays desktop measures but I think it's probably quite a bit more capable than you may have given them credit for. One of Linux strong features is it's ability to scale down and run on lower end HW quite well. It may not be there yet, but at least I have a hope of continued development for this platform with linux. The same most definately CAN NOT be said with Windows...and I don't relish the idea of replacing a PDA every year to two years... no thanks. If Linux can at all extend the usefull life of my Casio then it is worth every moment of my time and effort. The fact that it is Open Source etc is just a very nice bonus (for me at least.)
  • I'm a college student and mine was a gift from my parents to help me in school. And like the common college student I am dirt poor. So of course the first thing I did was scour the web for some cool freeware progs for it. To my chagrin there were basicly none, PocketTV was the only thing I could find. What is even worse is that I would have to pay to get a damn registry editor for the thing. Games are out of the question, they tend to cost $30 and up for anything remotely worthwhile. I guess I'm just not the market for this type of device. Execept I have already fallen in love with it. I have just finished reading "Timeline" on it, and have vowed not to read a regular book if I don't have to. The screen is crisp, and easily visible outside. Plus it's smaller than the average paperback, the pages don't rustle in the wind, or tear if you handle them too roughly. I take all my class notes on it, because the handwriting recognition is wonderful and is natural unlike Grafiti. So to the point now, Linux would be wonderful with it, if it can find a way to replicate the functions that already come with it. I wouldn't want to give up MS Reader, just to gain a few nice games. Plus I wouldn't want to give up the handwriting recognition. But I would love to gain some games, espicially XBill (I don't know why, but it is the perfect game when you don't feel like doing anything). I would love to ditch MS Media Player for XMMS. So save us college students! Make the linPaq a reality.
  • I don't know much about the iPaq, but I'd love to see any palm-sized device that can run a real OS and not cost $3000. (I disqualify anything for daily use that requires one to look like one is wired for a space shuttle flight.) If I have to bring up a keyboard on the display and tap keys with a stylus, I still wouldn't complain. I can think of several ways this could be useful. All the stuff you take for granted when you're in front of your computer, you could do at a resturaunt, and without taking up half the table to do it. Being able to plug into serial or Ethernet lines without to carry something in my hands the rest of the time would be nice, too.

  • Imagine a Beowulf cluster of people with the energy to write Beowulf cluster posts!
  • There's a guy in Scandanavia this week that has found an old Honeywell DPS-6 that is trying to figure out if there is any hope of refurbishing it to run Multics. It's a forlorn hope; he might conceivably get it to run GCOS, with a little luck, and perhaps some help from Thinkage.

    Multics run on DPS-8 (a mainframe), not DPS-6 (a minicomputer)

  • The Debian Way might seem ponderous and conservative if that's what you're looking for, but there is also a bleeding edge side of Debian which many people follow.

    I apt-get my system most days to upgrade it to the latest packages from woody. Sure this sometimes lives up to it's name of 'unstable' but surpisingly infrequently. Most of the time this is just a good way to keep up with the latest bleeding edge packages.

    I haven't got the time to program for the open source movement, but at least I can help with the testing :-)

  • ) Now, let's look at Linux. No graphical interface, natively anyway. To get the GUI, you need an extra layer of programming. Now, look at the Palm. GUI through and though, no extra layer.

    2) This is a good thing. Why? Because PDA's are obviously *NOT* desktop machine, or servers! They have a very limited capacity by todays standards. Every extra layer on something that small means more CPU, more memory, and more waiting.

    I completely disagree. We're not talking about a palm, with a ~12 Mhz processor (IIRC). It's an iPAQ. It's got an over 200 Mhz processor. It's more powerful than my old desktop. It can afford to have an extra layer that gives you the extra flexibility to choose which UI you want, and keeps the UI from crashing the whole system.
  • Good points all around - I see your arguments all the away around - I just think that the amount of press that this is getting, linux on PDA's, is greater than actual press it deserves based on the number of users and uses that a linux Palm or Pocket-PC would generate. A handful of people would need IPV6 on a palm device. A handful of people might need Apache, or MySQL, or anything like that. But the reality is that at least a good 90% of people just want notes, addresses, phone numbers, basic games, and maybe an mp3 player.

    I hate to see a product (whether Windows, or Linux, or Be, or anything) pushed into a situation where it doesnt fit, isnt needed, or is just plain dumb. I kinda of think that linux, though apparently technically feasible, is mostly a waste to put on to a palm/pda EXCEPT for the nerd factor of it (My palm has 0.012 BogoMIPS!). Thanks for the list of things though.

  • Because you're not thinking MIPS per watt and you're not thinking long term.

    Intel x86 and x86-compatible CPUs and associated bits n pieces are currently very power hungry. This will change - eventually, but then comes part two of my assertion: ia64.

    The first generation of ia64 will not be a handheld or laptop processor for a long time because it is first and foremost a replacement for the Xeon line of processors. But in time, ia64 will become the preferred binary instruction set due to sheer weight of numbers.

    Making software portable now, will help both the seamless transition between x86, x86-64 and ia64. Or indeed platforms like my Alpha.

    Lastly, a variety of CPU vendors allows for much cheaper CPU's. Do you think that you'd have Celerons for not much money if viable competition did not exist? I don't think so either.

  • Too bad there's no graffiti symbol for the Meta key.

    I'd use the new Euro grafitti symbol. Nobody will ever use the Euro for anything practical otherwise.


  • I've got a Palm 3xe running 3.5, and it's easy to crash, by trying to use the Magnifying Glass find-button in Memo Pad. With no memory protection, you'd expect user-written apps to crash the thing, but you'd think they'd have at least tested the basic functions that they're providing themselves.

    I think I may have crashed my Psion 3a in the past, but it didn't happen on things I want to do every day.

  • Remember CompaQ showing off Linux on an iPAQ at LinuxWorld? Maybe it wasn't Debian, but it was some flavor of Linux, and they'd done a nice job, and had a XWindows telnet font that was small enough to fit usable amounts of text in a window while still being readable, partly because of the gorgeously bright battery-burning screen. They also had some non-text apps running on it, but it was clearly the real thing.
  • by psocccer ( 105399 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:51PM (#727492) Homepage
    I can't help but think of the oh so famous quote that "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The reason I like my shell is because I have many special tools that each do their job well and don't try to be a jack of all trades. I have also heard many other people voice the same opinion. Now here's the stinger..

    Why does Linux have to run on *everything*?

    I know this will just be marked -1 troll, but really folks, we complain about Billy G making windows into things it was never meant to be, yet here we have people trying to cram a linux kernel in to a PDA. Now I have to ask why.

    Sure, it's cool. But that's it. No PDA to date has had a CLI, nor do I believe one would be benificial. In the case of a PDA, pointing and clicking is many times faster than *ANY* kind of text input developed so far.

    1) Now, let's look at Linux. No graphical interface, natively anyway. To get the GUI, you need an extra layer of programming. Now, look at the Palm. GUI through and though, no extra layer.

    2) This is a good thing. Why? Because PDA's are obviously *NOT* desktop machine, or servers! They have a very limited capacity by todays standards. Every extra layer on something that small means more CPU, more memory, and more waiting.

    3) Which gets me to my point. I love linux, I run it at home, at work, and everywhere I can reasonably in between. I like it to develop code. I don't use it because it's user friendly, I don't use it because it's got all the killer games. I use it to be productive, mainly on a CLI. Now take away that CLI. What do you have? Well, you have Mac, Windows, BeOS, whatever pretty WM you can run to emulate any of the above or do about anything you want. But consider this, wouldn't a kernel that natively used graphics fair a bit better?

    Now like I said, mod me down all you want, I use Linux, I love Linux, and it's a great alternative to any other OS. But I have to say, I think the Linux crowd here has gotten out the hammer and decided this problem looks like a nail. I think maybe it looks more like a push pin.

  • Debian/ARM was actually started with the Netwinder, about 2 years ago. That's when/why I joined the Debian project, and can only attest to the fact that the more you know about Debian, the more likely you are to be using it for the rest of your life.

    "RedHat Network", "Microsoft.NET", and even *BSD get a lot of their groundwork/ideas from the Debian playground. Indeed, most of the action and futuristic designs happen right there. Probably more software come out of the Debian project nowadays than anywhere else, including Microsoft and GNU.

    So, the iPAC distribution is not at all surprising. Already, Debian exists on more platforms than any other distribution.

  • by mrmag00 ( 200868 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @07:02PM (#727495) Journal
    because sombody has to get their palm slashdotted. its really just a race to see who can get apache ported.

    im sure some clever bastard will make a SMP palm to handle the load tho...

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