My Linux Toy -- the Libretto 50CT
This is probably extremely boring unless you are trying
to install Debian on a Libretto and are looking for
documentation from people who have somehow managed
to get it to work.
This one might be especially valuable if you don't know
anything about Linux because neither do I and I managed
to get it working.
I hate screwdrivers, hardware, and getting my fingers greasy.
On the other hand, if you're wondering what this is about,
perhaps you should check out the
If you want to read as little as possible,
skip down to the Debian part.
This is a bit chatty.
I bought my Libretto second-hand -- third hand, actually --
without any floppy drive whatsoever, scarce documentation,
and only American keycaps (and an American warranty,
if you can call it a warranty).
After about five hours of use, the old hard drive in it died.
It was still under warranty, but the Finnish Toshiba agent
wouldn't touch it with a 10-meter pole. So much for worldwide
I got a new 2-gig drive (whee) and struggled for about two
months (yes, two months) with it before I finally got
everything running. (Don't let that scare you -- most of
that was because I was busy having a merry Christmas and a
happy new year. All in all, getting the thing running only
took about three evenings and most of that was reading docs
and waiting for installations to complete.)
The way it was done
Here's a blow-by-blow account of what I did.
I've been using Loadlin and it works just fine. I never boot into
Windows anymore anyhow, but I want to have the possibility -- mostly
in case my wife would want to do word processing on the road (as if I'd let
- Partition the hard drive on DOS with a 500-meg
DOS partition, leaving the other 1.5 megs completely
- Install Windows 95 on the DOS partition
by putting the hard drive in a second computer with
a CD drive, copying everything I could fit
onto the hard drive, and moving the drive back.
- The Windows CD is crammed with demos for lame
warez. Don't copy that stuff unless you have
a lot of hard drive to waste.
- This moving operation took about half a dozen attempts
before I got it right.
- Make sure you get a slim model if
you have to get a new hard drive for the Libretto
-- older laptops would carry a similar drive but
5 mm thick whereas the Lib can obviously only
accommodate a half-height drive.
- And remember to set up the hard drive's
geometry correctly in the host computer's BIOS,
friends! It will look like it's trying to boot,
but fails, if you have the sectors wrong when
moving it back to the Libretto.
- I got a Windows CD with the Libretto but
had an old upgrade I thought I might as well use.
The installation proceeded nicely until the
upgrade check was done and it wanted me to insert
a floppy with an old version of Windows or NT
to prove that I was entitled to upgrade.
Duh -- no floppy drive. Back to the drawing board.
- I wanted the contents of the Windows CD on the
hard drive for various reasons -- obviously, tweaking
the Windows installation requires access to the CAB
files all the time, but even if you do have access
to a CD-ROM player, things are a lot more convenient
if you have the files on the fixed disk all the time
(on any Windows computer).
- And anyway, you never know what kind of voodoo
Windows tries to do while installing, so you really
want to run the installation locally on the Libretto,
not just install Windows on another computer and then
move the drive back to the Libretto.
- Move assorted other stuff I had forgotten to copy,
or that I needed to get off the 'Net, over a serial
link. Windows HyperTerminal sucks, but at least it
has ZModem and Kermit. (I've seen more terminal programs
than I care to remember that lacked either or both.)
- Find and install the network card driver (download to
the computer I had connected to over a serial line,
then zip it over using HyperTerminal).
- Finally connect the Windows side to the Internet
and download the Debian package.
I partitioned the drive (this is part of the Debian
install procedure, but it makes sense to put this
note here) into a smallish root partition and a
largish /usr (and of course an unused
partition near the end where the Lib can save the
contents of its head when it goes to sleep ...
I have 32 megs of memory but I couldn't make a
partition smaller than around 39.5 megs for this).
This was just gleaned from one of the installation
"howtos" I found on the Internet.
But in retrospect this arrangement wasn't so wise;
I've had to rearrange things a little bit because
I managed to fill up the root partition pretty quickly;
it contains /var (where dpkg
puts downloaded packages -- I like to keep them
around after I've installed them just in case)
and /home and of course /tmp.
If you're like me, one or more of those should be
separate from the root partition (unless of course
you go for just one partition for the whole system).
- I gleaned the following DOS command line from a Japanese
web page about installing Debian 1.x on a Libretto. I'm not
altogether sure where I found it, or how (given that I
don't even have the stuff to display the Japanese characters
correctly, never mind that I couldn't read them if I did)
but here's the command line I used to start up Loadlin
the first time:
The first parameter is the full path to the kernel you
want to boot; I had Loadlin, the kernel, root.bin
and all the other stuff in the same directory but you
might want to go for a cleaner setup. (And let's hope
you will be more successful than I was at finding up-to-date
documentation for Loadlin.)
loadlin linux root=/dev/ram initrd=root.bin
- Run the Debian installer. This was a breeze.
However, something screwed up the partition table
for me at one point, so I redid this part (actually
all the way back to formatting the hard drive and
reinstalling Windows ... yuck) another time.
- You will want to install some packages before the system
is actually useful for anything.
- Using precompiled preconfigured .deb packages
for things you want is vastly preferrable to
configuring, installing, maintaining, upgrading etc
your own versions of everything, although sometimes,
the "official Debian version" of something
will be some odd outdated, buggy, and esoteric version.
(I mean, Emacs 20.2, Procmail 3.10 --
I thought they were kidding!
This could be a feature of the installation script,
though; it looks like "fresh" versions are available
of most things in the "unstable" branch, which of course
you use at your own peril.)
- dselect is kind of too "user-friendly" for me,
I have been using straight dpkg ever since I
figured out how (and it's definitely not very hard).
I wish somebody wrote an Emacs mode for this, though!
- Besides the developer toys you need for compiling
a kernel (see below), make sure you get the apmd
- The default Debian kernel you installed doesn't
come with APM support, so you will want to compile
your own kernel. I actually ran the "out of the box"
kernel for a long time before I got around to doing
this myself, and put up with living without APM,
but it was a real hassle. Basically, it seems that
every time you put the computer to sleep, the APM
routines will throw an interrupt which Linux
normally doesn't know how to handle, and you get a
(very meaningful) "divide by zero" panic. Until you
get the APM kernel, in practice you will have to shut
down Linux when you want to turn off the computer and
reboot Linux when you start it up. So go build the APM
kernel, you won't want to look back.
- You will need gcc and various other "devel" packages
(binutils or gas says the dpkg
status entry, which also recommends libc-dev,
gcc, and make ... Nothing you wouldn't
want to have on your system for other reasons anyway.)
- The kernel itself is in
in the Debian package tree. There's a fairly succinct
README file with all the instructions you
need. You can take the .config file in
the package and change the APM setting in there,
or run make config to select your own
devices, defaults, etc. (There's a lot of stuff in
the "be-all-end-all" kernel you could leave out and
not worry about. Compiling your own kernel allows you
to tune the system to your needs in other ways, too.)
- If you're running Loadlin, you will have to copy
back the kernel to the Windows side. Just take the
zImage file and put it where Loadlin can
find it. Then you'll have to change the command line
you use to run Loadlin so it will use your new kernel
instead of the old one.
- Enjoy. Repeat. Enjoy.
:-) There is an annoying note that "Windows is
starting your MS-DOS mode program" when you boot the computer but that
means you can press Esc to get into Windows if you really need to.
Probably LILO wouldn't be hard to use at all but I have better things
to do than fool around with the startup stuff. What I have works for
me. (And anyhow I rarely reboot -- I just put the machine to sleep
when I'm done using it.)
For what it's worth, here's the Loadlin command line I'm using now:
where zimage is the name of the new kernel I compiled
(it's in Loadlin's working directory; otherwise you will need a full path)
and hda5 is my Linux root partition. (I hope I got this right
-- this was gleaned with less from the Unix side, and those
DOS PIF files aren't exactly human-readable. No way I would reboot
into Windows just to verify this
loadlin zimage root=/dev/hda5
In case you've never seen this in practice, when you attempt to start
this program, Windows will ask you if you are sure you want to shut
down everything else and restart the computer in, well, DOS mode.
If you say yes, it will sort of arrange to pull away the carpet from
under its own feet after the reboot, at which point the MS-DOS program
will run with full control over the computer (and in this case then
load and boot Linux).
What I think I should still do is somehow create a bootable
PCMCIA card for emergency situations in case I'd ever need to
do this whole procedure over again. (Actually I guess I'd try to
get the card to boot directly into Linux.)
Some sites you should probably know about:
The above listing doesn't necessarily list all the references that I found
the most helpful. Stay tuned -- I'll try to remember to import stuff from
bookmark files I have scattered all over the place here at some point.
Linux on the Libretto
with links to more sites, but also valuable in and of itself --
definitely your first stop.
One very helpful page, which includes e.g. a bit of documentation
of what the funny
Fn key does, is
Ian Wilson's Red Hat page.
I found several good bits and pieces of useful advice via the
Linux on Laptops page,
which has an incredibly large listing of links to pages like this one,
sorted by computer make and model.
(Mine isn't there, though
Adorable Libretto page
is huge, but probably pretty authoritative. I got lost in there
several times, but if something's available, it's bound to be listed
with links to more pages like this one (although I generally
found them to be either too newbie-oriented, or too geared towards
people who had already installed a few Linux setups).
has a nice picture of a Libretto
(with a Japanese keyboard --
and a Windows sticker, even though it's running FreeBSD.
There are also some links if you'd like to try out FreeBSD).
In the end, the reference I relied on the most was
Debian's installation instructions
although I wouldn't have known e.g. how to access the BIOS of the Lib
(remember, no docs with this second-hand unit) or to set up a sleep
partition if I hadn't also cruised around all those Libretto sites too.
$Id: libretto.prep,v 1.20 1999/09/30 15:55:48 era Exp $