Linux on the PD1000

Disclaimer : The methods and procedures described on this page worked for me. They may not work for you. You may be left with an unbootable, unusable or broken notebook. You have been warned. I take no responsibility for whatever you do to your equipment.

On the other hand, if you have information concerning the PD1000 which is not listed here, please let me know.


NOTE : As you can see, it has been very quiet lately. Basically, because I was busy and I didn't get very many new tips.
It basically means (I would say) that the information to run Linux has settled, and most you need can be found here .... :-)
So, even if this page doesn't seem to be updated recently, doesn't mean it's outdated !

May 5, 2003: Cleaned up the installation section. Received an updated installation report from Philipp Potocki
February, 2003: Back in November 2002 (sigh) I got a note from Alan Cox about XFree4, touchscreen and USB on the stingray
June 15, 2001: Checked and updated most of the links
February 6, 2001: Added another name variation (FOREFRONT) of the PD1000
September 25, 2000 : Added a section and a note about the parallel port. Added some info on VGA display.
August 29, 2000 : Added a note about X11, resolution and color depth. Updated a link or two.
April 22, 2000 : Added the reports I got during the last few months. There is an installtion report of a Suse 6.3 and RedHat 6.1. Updated PD100 vs. Stingray. Updated X11 and Stingray, updated USB and Stingray.
January 18, 2000 : Got quite a few updates over the holidays : USB, Serial port (under cable connections), PCMCIA, Sound, Graphics. Added IR port
November 12, 1999 : Updated APM information
September 23, 1999 : Updated Touchscreen, XFree, APM. Added Floppy. Minor redesign (links etc.)
September 17, 1999 : Alan Cox bought a PD1100, you can find his experiences here . Updated links
September 13, 1999 : Updated XFree
September 5, 1999 : Updated Touchscreen, XFree and USB. Added Topline and Stingray information.
September 1, 1999 : Updated USB information
August 30, 1999 : Touchscreen driver : A lot has been going on with a driver for the touch screen driver. See below.
August 30, 1999 : Updated sound information and added Amherst Information Technology information.
August 30, 1999 : Moved the page from the old location to here.
July 8, 1999 : Added BESTpal and Parallel Port cable information. Updated USB.
June 25, 1999 : Added Card bus and USB information
June 8, 1999 : Added sound information
June 1, 1999 : Started this page

The PD1000

The Palmax PD100 is a sub notebook slightly larger than the Libretto. It's about the same size as the Sony VAIO PCG-C1 or the NEC Mobio NX.
Note : Palmax sold their notebook line to Tidal Power

For the search engines and for you surfers out there : Sometimes, the PD1000 is also sold under the names
IPC lifestyle mininote 166 (Germany)
BESTpal (Scandinavia)
Topline Mininote PD1000/PD1100 (Netherlands)
or some variation thereof. They are all the same. For more resources see the bottom of this page in the link section.

There is also a more powerful version available, the PD1100 with a faster CPU and a larger hard drive. The notes given on this page should apply to the PD1100 as well.
The Seatech Stingray seems to be a (now dropped) copy of the PD1000. Therefore, this page may apply to it as well. Thanks to Christof Buergi for this.
Philipp Potocki reports
"My machine is a Seatech Stingray. Processor speed either 100 or 133 MHz, fixed disk of 1.6 GB. This is the precursor of the 166MHz/2.1GB variety; otherwise, it appears to be much the same as the more recent model.
The Stingray is apparently the same machine as the Palmax. The main difference is the label; the BIOS may or may not be the same. A chap at claimed that my BIOS sported options not present on the Palmax. But then, the same chap also said that LINUX would run only on the 166MHz model, not on the 133MHz one."

My model has a 166Mhz CPU, 32MB RAM and a 2.1 GB hard drive. I didn't get the floppy drive or the CD-ROM drive. Only the docking station (as default) and a null modem cable. I may get a PCMCIA Ethernet card one day. (Which I did after everything was set up and after I've written this ... :-) It came with Win98 preinstalled.
I, of course, installed Linux on this machine. This page will give you some hints and tips if you want to do so, too. I also give the steps I performed for installing debian and stampede.

Getting files onto the PD1000

This issue is worth mentioning since this mini notebook does not have a CD ROM, floppy or modem in its standard configuration. However, it has a port replicator which provides a serial and a parallel port. So, you can use these to connect to another PC (desktop) or to your ISP.

Connections via modem

If you have an external modem (like me) you can simply plug it into the serial port and use an appropriate generic modem driver which win9x should provide. Remember, you cannot install your manufactors modem driver since there is no CD ROM or floppy.
Now you can connect to the internet and can download as much as you like and as much as you can afford.
It should also be possible to use a PMCIA modem under win9x. However, I did not test this.
Once you have a Linux system running you can of course also access any serial or PCMCIA modem which is supported by Linux.

Connections via cable

This wasn't as easy as I thought :-( Under Win98 on the PD1000 I only tried a Laplink/Parallel Null modem cable to connect to a Linux desktop machine, but I didn't succeed and did not try any further. You may have Win98 or the like on your desktop machine and then you should be able to connect the two.

When I had a minimal Linux system with Kernel 2.0.36 I tried also the parallel connection with PLIP to a Linux 2.0.35 box, but didn't succeed either. I don't know if it is a bad parallel port of the PD1000 or of my desktop. Both "should" be bidirectional.
According to the palmax FAQ the cable has to be a modified laplink cable. The layout is given in the FAQ. But I haven't tried it myself yet. Thanks to Yann Vernier for this information.

However, I finally tried a Null modem serial connection which worked via PPP between a minimal Linux system on the PD1000 and a Linux desktop. I get about 10kb/sec. This is what I used and still use to connect my PD1000 with my desktop machines.
According to Yann Vernier, "... the serial port appears to be an 8250 (including the max speed of 19200 bps)"
... unless you tell it to be an 16550 with "setserial /dev/ttyS1 uart 16550A"

The fastest is of course Ethernet. After installation, it works under Linux. It "should" also work under Win98.

Specific installation procedures

I moved my own installation description out of this page. Mainly because in the meantime I have Mandrake running. You can boot the Mandrake installer from an existing DOS partition. Just collect the ramdisk and the kernel from the install CD.

I got two more instrallation reports. I guess it is useful if you read all of them.
Paul Carnine has sent me an Red Hat 6.1 installtion report - he has a KingMax PCMCIA EN10-T2T card wich works.
Philipp Potocki has sent me an Suse 6.3 installation report on his Seatech Stingray.
Update : he sent me a Suse 8.0 installation report.

General issues

VGA/console display

I don't really know in which section to put this, so here it goes :-) I played around again with some settings and found that the VGA modes 0F05 and 0F06 (selections 4 and 5 if I let it give me a list) are VERY useful (the ones that have 30 and 34 lines instead of 25) ! They use the WHOLE screen, and don't leave that space above and below.
For those who don't know : if you have a more or less standard kernel boot at the LILO prompt with "linux vga=ask" and select the appropriate modes.

XFree86 and graphics

Update Xfree 4.0-4.2 has not been working. According to Alan Cox, Xfree4.3 will support at least the PD1100. I will try this as soon as I get a stable XFree version on my machine.

The MediaGX is supported since XFree86 version 3.3.3. The driver is in the SVGA server. I had no serious problems setting up X. I used xf86config (XF86Setup crashed ...). I had to use 16bpp as the default color depth since 8bpp screwed the colors (big deal :-)

I post my XF86Config file (I use XFree3.3.3.1) since I got some requests. Note : the standard mouse points to nowhere and the mouse (a serial or PS/2) is selected with XInput devices. See man xsetpointer.

Christof Buergi reports that XFree86 3.3.4 no longer works since the modelines are compiled into the server. :-(

Robert Ernst reports :
"XFree 3.3.5 works, but in 8-Bit mode the colors are wrong, and in 16-Bit mode you have to press Fn+F6 to get the display working."

Ikke reports :
"i have some info i found in a pd1100 faq (i say pd1100 but it works also on the pd1000). it deals about xfree and the mediagx-chipset. if your screen looks screwed up in 16bpp you should set your virtual desktop to 641x480. (read carefully: 641 instead of 640 ) this way you don't notice a virtualdesktop but the graphics look 100% ok. (8bpp still won't work)"

Currently (as of Feb. 2003), I still have XFree3.3.6 with the 641x480 trick in 16 colors only.

Philipp Potocki reports from his Stingray (which is just an early PD1000)
"X: 3.3.5
Configuring X: initially, only xf86config works. Once you have a valid XF86config file, XF86SETUP appears to be working also, at least to the extent that it did not crash immediately. I have not actually tried to do a full configuration using this tool. SUSE comes with yet another X configuration tool called 'sax' which can not be used with the PD-1000 due to missing or invisible texts in the panels.
The following are the salient pieces to enter in xf86config:
hsync - 1 (standard VGA monitor)
vsync 1 (50-70 Hz)
video card - 436 (mediaGX)
server - 3 (XF86_SVGA)
video memory - 4 (2MB; I changed the setting in the BIOS)
clock chip setting - none
probe clock - n (must not probe the mediaGX)
modes - specify "640x480" for depths 8 and 16 specify "320x240" for depths 24 and 32
specify virtual screen = y for ALL MODES
notes on virtual screens: does not actually matter for bpp 8 as this mode is still not usable; I have not (yet) tried bpp>16, so I can't say if those work.
xf86config will define virtual screens of 1024x800 which is a bit overdone for my taste. I manually altered the XF86config file after the initial test to virtual 800 600 which seems to suffice even for the taller KDE configuration panels.
For real live usage, you also should define bpp 16 as default mode, of course.
I have found one further problem so far: scrolling in a list box rendered the lines of text unreadable. I have not included the specific circumstances in my notes and I have not been able to reproduce the problem.
Also, after quitting X the text on the console on tty1 is offset to the left by a few bits. If this bothers you, press Fn+F6 or switch to another console."

Framebuffer etc.

Yann Vernier reports :
"I'm afraid I have to report major problems using any graphics on my PD-1100; the only combination that works is vesafb at 640x480x16bpp and the XFree86 server Alan links to. Anything else usually crashes; the fastest console option is ordinary "text" mode, but then the low-level textmode emulation is still running if you try to do graphics (X just hangs, kgicon from ggi gets garbled). GGI works, kind of, if started from a 4bpp vga16 fbcon, but is nowhere near stable. Apparently, it doesn't even use its acceleration."

The touchscreen

Kimoto Go has told me about a specification sheet available form Amherst Information Technologies. Thank you !

Stefan Goerg has written a preliminary driver. It works with some window managers. I'm using this one.
The latest version has mouse button support.

Thomas Buck has written a XInput device. Check it out since I haven't tried it yet :-) Here is a mirror
Several people have reported success with this driver. Last time I checked, it even had button support.

Update Alan Cox has an input module for XFree4

Also, several people have mailed me, they are willing to write a driver including Palmax Germany who are very helpful in getting information and Yann Vernier who also wants to support Linux on the PD1000 commercially.

Robert Ernst has written a patch to gpm. Citing him :
"I have written a patch for gpm-1.17 to support the touchscreen in textmode and with replicator-mode (command line argument -R), under X11 as a SummaSketch Tablet. It needs a patched available on"
Check out the latest GPM version if the patch already made it in.

Power consumption and APM

get the set6x86 package available from the Cyrix mini HOWTO page in the utilities section. This is VERY useful since you can power down the CPU when idle. For Laptops this is of course an even more important issue than for desktops. The PD1000 got MUCH cooler when I used these utilities.
Also note, that the Kernel patches are not necessary for the recent Kernels (>=2.0.35, 2.2.x) since they are already included. Also, the 2.2.x kernels have a workaround for the Coma bug (I don't know about the 2.0.36).
Of course you also should read the Battery Powered Mini HOWTO and do the suggested stuff (i.e. hdparm and apmd). Also note the nice utils under the system/power/ directory of your local metalab mirror.
Since you can get the PD1000 with 32 or even 64 MB, you might consider turning off swap when on battery - there is plenty of RAM.

From Robert Ernst I got the following report :
"APM doesn't work 100%. With linux 2.2.10, I get hardware resets when two power-management events are nested (e.g., switching to suspend-mode with Fn+F5 key and then closing the case - after opening the case and pressing any key, the laptop wakes up, goes into suspend-mode after 1/10 second and then reboots after 10-30 seconds...)"

Also from Robert Ernst :
It appears that everything works fine if you disable APM in the BIOS.


First of all : I don't really need sound as I'm not playing mpeg's or whatever. So, I didn't try to get the best out of it.
First, I tried the SB16 sound driver, but it didn't work. Second, I tried the MSS driver, but this didn't work either.
Last, I went into the BIOS and switched off the high byte address, so, that it looks like a SB8. Then I compiled the SB16 driver with only SB8 capabilities. That works ! Now I get the funny noises in Enlightenment and a beep here and there - that's all I need right now.

Thomas Buck reported he compiled a 2.0.36 Kernel with SB16 support using the BIOS values and it works in 16 bit stereo but having minor problems with the mixer/volume control.

Marek Rzewuski reports :
"I have also managed to get Xmms to play MP3's without chucking. I achived this by fickling with the setup for Xmms. I also had to play my music at 22kHz and not 44kHz (in the MPEG Layer 1/2/3 Player, configuration). It looks to me like the PD100 isn't fast enough til process data at 44kHz. But maybe there is some other software which isn't so CPU hungry."
and Volker Wedemeier reports :
"The sound on the pd1000 works with the OSS-SoundBlaster 16 driver in kernel 2.2.5. It didn't work at first, but when I started linux after I had started windows (i.e., after windows initialized the sound-hardware), it worked. I haven't tryed to set up the sound hardware under linux yet, I guess I'll still need to read a pnp-setup-howto and the sound-howto and some such, but I am pretty certain that it can be done. If not entirely under linux, then I will try to initiallize the card under dos before I start linux with loadlin (as I do anyway)."

The card bus slot (aka PCMCIA slot)

No problems here.
I bought an Accton 2216 Ethernet Card (no more PPP :-) and it works perfectly fine with the latest pcmcia-cs (3.0.12) package. I activated the 32bit card bus slot option - well it works :-)

Volker Wedemeier reports on a PCMCIA Ethenet card :
"It is called Fiber line 10M Ethernet COMBO. It is a PCMCIA type II card and it is NE2000 compatible and it has both a twisted pair and a BNC connection. (I use the BNC). Installation under SuSE Linux (6.1) went smoothly. The standard Modules for PCMCIA and the ethernet card worked right away."
And Marek Rzewuski reports :
"PCMCIA works for me w/o any problems. I have the 3Com 3C589D Combo card."


I was thinking about getting a USB mouse. The good thing about that is, that one doesn't need the port replicator (e.g. on the road) for using an USB mouse - in contrast to a serial or PS/2 mouse. This seems to be a better workaround if you don't want to use one of the experimental touchscreen drivers. (I'll stick to the touchscreendrivers for now :-)
For 2.4.X USB is in the kernel and it works. It is an OHCI controller. I even could operate a USB webcam on the PD1000.
For 2.3.X, of course there was active USB development going on.
For USB (at least mouse and keyboard) with Kernel 2.2.X you can either use the UUSBD package or you can dare to try the experimental USB kernel driver. You have to edit /usr/src/linux/arch/i386/ and uncomment the line "# source drivers/usb/" and reconfigure/recompile the kernel - good luck ;-)
I myself compiled the UUSBD package for 2.2.X but still have no USB mouse ;-). However, the controller is an OHCI.

Christof Buergi reports, he was successfull in using an USB mouse with the 2.3.X-kernel USB driver (Which should be the same as for 2.2.10). He can use it with a major=10 and minor=32 PS/2 device under gpm but not under XFree86. One also should enable the BIOS USB Legacy support and the BISO USB port in order to make it work.

He later reports
"I once tried to use USB on 2.2.10. Works great with mouse and keyboard. 2.2.x can't handle more, but these are by far the most important. I don't like to carry the replicator with me to use a mouse ;=)."

Philipp Potocki reports on his Stingray (an early PD1000)
"The USB implementation appears to be flawed; possibly, the chipset used in my model is not quite up-to-date. In any event, it does not properly switch between fast and slow USB devices. Win98 frequently failed to recognize the USB mouse even when it was working perfectly just before the last shutdown. Worse, it would never recognize the USB mouse (by logitech, btw) without some surgery on the registry after using the USB ZIP drive.
Using a USB hub solved this problem nicely. Ever since I started using a passive dual port hub the PD-1000 worked with all USB peripherals I threw at it.
But beware: I also own a 4-ported USB hub which can be used with or without its own power supply. When I tried to use it without the power supply, the PD-1000 shut itself completely off and refused to power up again. I had to remove the battery from the computer in order to start it up."

Update Alan Cox told me about USB on the Stingray :
"The CS5520 (older chipset) has a known bug where it doesnt handle slow/fast USB switching right. The errata answer is: use a hub"

The floppy drive

Robert Ernst reports :
"The floppy drive is a proprietary drive connected to the parallel port of the port replicator, but it works with Linux _without any problem_!
The reason is that the port replicator switches the lpt port to fdd interface mode on power-up if the floppy drive is connected (no hot-swap possible!). The interface then acts just like a industry-standard floppy controller chip."

The parallel port

(This is copied from above)

According to the palmax FAQ (which should be on your model) the cable has to be a modified laplink cable. The layout is given in the FAQ. But I haven't tried it myself yet. Thanks to Yann Vernier for this information.

Garth Rautenbach reports : "I noticed you were unable to get the Parallel Cable to work, I had the same problem, the solution is to simply short Pins 25, 24, and 23 together (both sides of the cable). After I did this, LL3.EXE and DCC worked 100%
Apparantly Pin 25 on the LPT port on the Palmax is not connected."
With LL3.EXE he means LapLink and with DCC direct cable connection.

IR port

Marek Rzewuski reports :
"I can report successfull IR connection with my Nokia 9000 communicator. I had tried to make it work for many weeks (it worked for me the very first time I tried, and in the following weeks I couldn't understand what I did right the first time). Well, sollution to my problem was to execute this line: echo 100 > /proc/sys/net/irda/slot_timeout
(I think default is 90). After this the irdadump showed my phone and everything started to work. I have been using IrSIR connection to my phone and have been surfing on the net with it many times. For IrDA please check:
I have also succesfull connected two computers with IrLAN. The other machine was also running Linux and had Tekram IrMate 210 attached. The IrSIR connects at 115Kb, but FTP showed only transferspeed of about 8.6KB/sek. I had problems with routing traffic from by BESTpal to the internet, but I suspect I had something wrong with route tables, but FTP, TELNET etc to/from the other PC was OK. "

Yann Vernier reports :
"The Palmax mininotebooks feature a NSC PC97338VJG controller for serial ports, floppy (external) and parallel communication. I got this working on my PD-1100 by compiling a 2.2.14 kernel with the IRDA patch 2.2.14-irda1, disabling the serial port (setserial /dev/ttyS1 uart unknown), "modprobe nsc_fir dongle_id=9" for the Temic IR, start irmanager and ifconfig irda0 up. Then I could happily connect to the Ericsson phone through /dev/ircommnew0."

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