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  • How to install Linux on the Psion Netbook Pro

    Psion Netbook Pros can be had for under US$100 on Ebay.

     

    Unfortunately, they come with an outdated version of Windows CE, which makes them less useful than they could be.

     

    But fear not, salvation, in the form of Linux is at hand.

     

    Here is HOW TO INSTALL LINUX ON THE PSION NETBOOK PRO.

     

      1. 1. Download this: http://linuxtogo.org/~florian/nBkProOs.img_cf (For some reason, Firefox keeps trying to open this as a text file when I left click on it, so Right Click and save it as an “all files”, not a “txt file” if you have this problem.

     

    2. There are also two versions of Linux to try.  The official Psion Beta version which was never released (but is apparently more stable) is here: http://rapidshare.com/files/67872227/soho-image-netbook-pro-20050104074212.rootfs.tar.bz2

     

    3. Alternatively, you can try GDE, which you can get from here: http://linuxtogo.org/~florian/gpe-fs-cf.tar.bz2

     

    4. Now you have to create two partitions on a Compact Flash (CF) card, on e in FAT16, one in EXT2.  You will need access to a machine already running Linux to create the EXT2 partition.  Otherwise, you’ll have to get Linux running on your PC to do this.  If you are using an x86 machine and need a quick and easy version of Linux to run, I recommend Puppy Linux.  At about 100MB, it’s a pretty small download and you can burn it to CD and boot directly from it.  You can get Puppy Linux here: http://www.puppylinux.org/downloads/official-releases/latest-production-version

     

    5. Whichever version of Linux you use, you should be able to create and format the partitions using the command line (google for how), or better, using a GUI tool like GPARTED (which comes with Puppy Linux – Yay!). Make the FAT16 partition about 100MB or so.  The EXT2 partition can take up the remainder of the room on the card.

     

    6. Once your CF card has been partitioned, copy the file from 1 above to the FAT16 partition.  RENAME IT “nBkProOs.img”.  This is very important, or Linux won’t boot.

    7. Then, unarchive the contents of either 2., or 3. above (either, NOT BOTH) to the  EXT2 partition.

     

    8. Insert the CF Card into the Netbook Pro. 

     

    9. Do a Hard Reset (use a paperclip to press the Hard Reset Switch on the Psion, which is in a little hole just under the Enter Key – see picture).

    DSCF5103 Immediately after the reset, press CRTL-D-Esc together, and the Psion should boot into Linux!

     

    10. Don’t worry if it takes awhile, because it does.  The Psion may appear to just sit there – don’t panic.  Go watch some Youtube, and in about 10 minutes, Linux should be up and running:

     

    DSCF5105

    (The above instructions are based on Boobyshane’s post here: http://www.hpcfactor.com/forums/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=10543&start=286 Many many thanks, Bobyshane.  This is the easiest Linux wrangling into unhappy hardware I’ve ever done, thanks to your post!! )

14 comments:

  1. ilembitov says:

    Hi! Just came across your post. Thank you - this is very interesting! The only question is - is this a Debian-based or RedHat-based system? I've downloaded the image and still couldn't understand what package management does it use. Can I use 3rd party packages with it? Furthermore, can I modify the image to include more up2date packages?

  1. ilembitov says:

    Oh, and one more thing - if you use that PsionLX image, does it require the CF card with an image after the initial installation? Or it replaces the Win.CE completely? Will it still be there after soft and hard resets?

  1. Gadgetmiser says:

    Hi ilembitov
    Sorry, I haven't used it enough to answer you first question. I don;t know which kernel the Psion linux version is using. However, the other distro is GPE based, and GPE is stil being developed, so I expect other packages are available. Also, if you use the method above, Win CE will always be there - just remove your CF card, and do a hard reset, and the Netbook will boot back into Win CE.

  1. wolfechu says:

    So if I understand the posts on the forum linked, this method is the one which doesn't alter anything permanently on the Psion itself, but just runs from the CF card? I ask mainly because I've only had the NB Pro a week, I'm only a dabbler when it comes to stuff like this, and I'd rather not bugger it up and be unable to use WinCE OR Linux... ;)

  1. Gadgetmiser says:

    Hi wolfechu - Yes, this does not alter the Psion at all. If you remove the CF card, it will boot back into WinCE. Cheers

  1. Is there an easy way to install Linux permanently onto the netBook Pro?

    Psion LX Beta seems much better than the WinCE.Net 4.2 installation, I haven't tried the GPE version yet, is it still possible to update (Feb 2010) either of these to a more modern and better version?

  1. hello...anyone here?

    Is there an "easy" way to upgrade the Openembedded version of Linux on the nBPro?

  1. mrkrupa says:

    "Easy"? No. I can't tell you the exact details why but the arm version is an older one. The question is whether the tools are available to build a more current kernel. Personally, I don't find the machine very useful. It's either too slow or the apps too complicated for the power. I had always hoped something like Android or the ipad interface would be fashioned to fit this kit. It really was ahead of its time with the instant on and other applet based programs combined with the touch screen. I stumbled onto this site looking for wee little boards that already run current kernels that might interface to the hardware on the netbook pro.

  1. I tried to install Psion LX again but not working. Exactly which files need to be in the ext 2 fs partition. I have nBkProOs.img in the 100mb FAT16 partition but extracting the bzip2 folder doesn't work properly in ext2 folder

  1. Reddog says:

    trying to unzip either linux image I get errors? symbolic links to nonexistant files?
    what am I missing here? lol

  1. Reddog says:

    well all I am getting is the funny lil corrupted graphics blob in the top left corner.. I am quite enthusiastic about getting linux running on my NBP, but can someone guide me please? ;)

  1. justii says:

    I tried to install puppy linux this way and it seemed everything is ok. the setup cursor left upside the screen worked some minutes and then the screen turned black.

    After about 20 minutes I switched off & on the netbook and it seemed to be started but the screen became black. And what ever I tred to do, the screen stayed black. Ctrl+D+Esc is able to start the boot menue but it doesn't offer a solution. With '1' oder '!' the screen turns black again.

    What to do now? I need help!

  1. justii says:

    About two months later there is no helping answer?
    I'm on the edge of despair ...

  1. http://jlime.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2775&sid=e06a54ce86cfa13edcb8ea2b31744e92&start=270

    I haven't got this working but many have.

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