July 2000

This is pretty old by now but I'll leave it in place in case it's useful to anyone. These days I mostly use a Thinkpad 240 for my laptop. It's somewhat bigger but only a little heavier than my Libretto. Installing Linux on it was easy since I was able to do a pretty standard installation from the Windows partition.


Mondo Info's Toshiba Libretto Stuff

I have a Toshiba Libretto 50, a 2-pound laptop which I like very much. There are various resources around the Net that may be of use to folks with Librettos or folks considering getting one. Waysoft's excellent Libretto page has a good bit of information and links to lots of other useful information.

As of this writing Libretto is available from Toshiba in the US. My Libretto is a Japanese market model and I bought it by email from the folks at T-Zone in Japan before Librettos were available in the US. I'm delighted with the service I've received from T-Zone -- if you contact them, tell Tania I say Hi. I only wish that they sold more cool Japanese stuff. (Anyone know where you can order Shonen Knife CDs that aren't available in the US?) T-Zone also has a US shop but they were out of Librettos when I decided to get mine.

I run Linux on my Libretto and since it seems that not too many other people do, some of my experiences may possibly be of use to others. Mind you, these are my experiences and there may be other, better ways of doing things. If I'm wrong on something here or you know a better way of doing things, please let me know.

I considered running FreeBSD on my Libretto (I already run Linux on my home server) but decided against it since FreeBSD's PCMCIA code doesn't (yet) support multifunction PCMCIA cards.

Grant Taylor has a very interesting set of pages regarding Linux on a Libretto. I'm sure that you will find them worth reading. George Moody's pages are also very interesting. He uses a installation technique different from the one I used.

Since I'm not being paid for this advice I, naturally, won't accept responsibility for anything bad that comes of taking it. But if something doesn't work, please let me know so that I can revise this page.

There may be a way to get Linux installed using only the Libretto's hardware but since its floppy drive interface is a PCMCIA card and any CDROM would have to be connected the same way, installing that way might be something of a trick.

[A kind fellow Libretto-user has pointed out to me that there is a way to install Linux using only Libretto's hardware. It's described in the Slackware FAQ. I haven't tried it myself but I have every reason to think that it should work just fine if you should choose to go that route.]

It should be possible to begin an installation from floppy and read the installation data across a network, but I wasn't successful in getting my Libretto to unmount Red Hat's Linux boot floppy and read a second one. It seems that you need to be able to do that in order to do a network installation using a Red Hat distribution, which is what I began with.

In any case, it's easy to remove Libretto's hard disk and do the installation on another machine and that's what I did. The drive can be removed by removing the two screws on the bottom of the case on the side opposite the PCMCIA slot and then sliding it out. There's even a little handle with which to pull the drive out.

I got a 2 1/2" to 3 1/2" IDE adapter for about US$12, plugged one end into the Libretto's drive and the other into a random PC-style machine's IDE and power cables and installed onto Libretto's drive using a Red Hat boot floppy and CD. It seems that 2 1/2" to 3 1/2" IDE adapters are rarer than I had known. I got mine at Dexis and they seemed to think of it as a pretty ordinary part.

Well, actually, it's a little more complex than that since IDE cables can be connected the wrong way round. Pin 1 should be marked on the host machine's motherboard and, by convention, IDE cables are installed with the colored edge on the pin 1 side. Unfortunately, Libretto's drive doesn't seem to have its pin 1 marked. With the label up and the circuit card side down, looking at the pins of Libretto's drive, pin 1 is on the right. I don't know how bad it would be to connect Libretto's drive the wrong way round -- it seems quite possible that damage could result. For that reason it would be good to verify that I'm right about which side of Libretto's drive is pin 1. There were four pin sockets on one side of the 2 1/2" side of the adapter that were unused.

I began with a Red Hat distribution since I'm used to their way of doing things. I'm sure that other distributions would work fine. Most of the installation is straightforward but since the machine that I was installing for (Libretto) isn't much like the machine I was installing on (a random garage box with an Intel motherboard), it was necessary to install X and the PCMCIA code after the disk was back in Libretto. In learning all this, I had the drive in and out of Libretto a good dozen times.

The current version (3.3) of the XFree86SVGA server supports Libretto's chipset (Chips and Technologies' 65550) correctly. The previous version claimed to but didn't work for me. I was able to get that version's VGA16 server to work by claiming that it would be driving a generic VGA card and a generic VGA monitor. I had to figure out what protocol the pointing device uses by trial and error. It turns out that the device that you should link to /dev/mouse is psaux and the protocol is, therefore, PS/2. You're welcome to my XF86Config in case it's of interest to you. It still has some excess cruft in it, but I haven't bothered to clean it up because I don't care.

The PCMCIA card services code went in quite painlessly after I had decided to install it from scratch. It turns out that since the PCMCIA probe in the Red Hat installation wouldn't work (because the desktop machine I was using for the installation didn't have PCMCIA hardware), something didn't get configured and Libretto didn't see the cards. I expect that it would have been possible to figure out what hadn't gotten configured and fix it by hand, but installing the stuff from scratch was so simple that I don't know why you'd bother.

The only difficulty I ran into with my 3Com3C562D card is that Libretto wouldn't see the Ethernet half of the card except on boot: if I pulled the card and re-inserted it, Libretto wouldn't see the network. The card has both a 10BaseT and a 10Base2 connector and Linux's PCMCIA software is configured by default to sniff out which is in use. For some reason that I don't know, it would only correctly sniff out the right connector on boot. Since I plan only to use my Libretto on 10BaseT networks, I specified:


in my /etc/pcmcia/network.opts and everything works now.

Since my Libretto needs to have different IP addresses and use different servers depending on whether it's connected to either of two Ethernet networks or is connected to the outside world via PPP, I'm using DHCP and I hacked up a couple of Python scripts to reconfigure things depending on what network it's connected to. So far, I've had excellent luck with the DHCP server from the Internet Software Consortium and the DHCP client by Yoichi Hariguchi.

If there's anything that I've left unclear in this description, please let me know so that I can fix it and if you have any questions about getting Linux to run on a Libretto, email me and I'll see if I can help.

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