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Adventures with a SUSE Linux-Powered OQO Palmtop - page 2

SUSE in the Palm of Your Hand

  • April 28, 2006
  • By Rob Reilly

The OQO model 01+ runs a 1 GHz Transmeta processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 30 GB drive, and an 800 x 480 slide up color tablet/screen. There's a thumb keyboard under the tablet with a mouse stick (for the right thumb) and buttons (under the left thumb). It runs on Li-Polymer batteries and is just slightly larger than my HP iPAQ PDA. Advertised weight is 14 ounces.

I managed to get almost everything in SUSE Linux 10.0 working with the OQO. Lacking are a working internal WiFi chip and accelerated native driver graphics. No surprise there. For the most part installation was standard YAST, with a few challenges.

Before going any further, OQO definitely doesn't officially support Linux. If you install a distribution, you are on your own for support.

First off, there is no built-in CD/DVD drive for boot-up. And, although I could plug in an external USB CD drive with a bootable Linux CD, it wouldn't boot on it's own either. "Boot from CD" had to be enabled in the OQO BIOS settings. Using the function key (FN at the lower left on the thumb keyboard) together with the 2 on the number pad, during the OQO splash screen put me into the BIOS configuration menus. Once there, I chose Startup, then Boot Device and select CD-ROM drive for the 1st boot device. The 2nd boot device was set to Hard Disk C.

I also used text mode YAST for installation. Initially, the graphical version of YAST came up, but the buttons were below the bottom of the visible screen. Later I found out that the display worked well using the VESA driver, but not the native Silicon Motion SM720 Lynx3DM video chip. Using the Silicon Motion chip resulted in a scrunched screen. That made it impossible to proceed beyond certain installation steps because the buttons couldn't be clicked. The traditional Ncurses/text version worked fine inside an X-term window. I tabbed around the menus instead of using the mouse.

As for partitioning, I chose the normal default scheme that YAST suggested. The Windows XP partition was resized to around 16 GB, swap was set at 256 MB, and the remainder allocated to Linux (roughly 15 GB). ReiserFS is the default file system type.

Running through all five CDs on my clunky old IOmega USB CD 650 external drive took around an hour and a half. After Linux was up and running, I configured NFS and loaded additional software from the DVD drive on my SUSE Linux 10.0 powered 64-bit HP notebook. While you can type in changes to configuration files and run command line programs from the OQO thumb keyboard, it's much easier to log in remotely using SSH from a laptop to do maintenance. I changed the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and could run the text mode YAST remotely (over WiFi from my HP).

Alternately, my USB Gyromouse and keyboard worked by just plugging them in.

WiFi was an issue with the internal Atmel 802.11b/g chip. I guess some people have the on-board chip working, but it requires re-compiling the kernel and building a driver.

I solved the problem by sticking in a D-Link DWL-122 wireless USB adapter. It's a Prism based device, so it was immediately recognized and operational. Again, using YAST, I configured networking for DHCP and exited. Firefox and Mozilla came right up and I was able to cruise Web sites, to my heart's content. Occasionally, when rebooting or coming out of sleep mode, the network needed to be restarted. I haven't spent a lot of time tweaking.

Audio is handled by an Ali HP Compaq nc4010 sound chip and worked out of the box. It's a little strange to listen to my favorite Internet radio stations on such a small machine. Reminds me of an ancient transistor radio with it's slightly tinny speaker. Sound quality through the headphone jack, with earbuds, was excellent.

The tablet also worked after adjusting the xorg.conf file. It was configured as a Wacom tablet and I had to add "input device" sections for the tablet cursor and stylus. The stylus was useful for Web surfing but, a little sensitive to lean angle. I don't know if any handwriting programs currently exist, that would work with this setup.

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