Originally Published: Wednesday, 6 June 2001 Author: Mike Baker
Published to: develop_articles/Development Articles Page: 2/9 - [Printable]

OSDN Handheld Months: Installing Linux on a Casio E105

Linux.com Senior Developer Mike Baker takes us step-by-step through installing a Linux system on a MIPS-based Windows CE device. If pre-built distributions are not for you, then this article is.

Pre-made Distributions  << Page 2 of 9  >>

Pre-made Distributions

Before we begin building our own lets take a quick look at your choices of pre-built distribution for your handheld.

The QT Palmtop Environment

A good example of a system built around a ramdisk is TrollTech's QT Palmtop Environment. It's also the easiest system to install since it doesn't require any repartitioning of the compact flash. The distribution consists of a three-megabyte kernel and the CyaCE boot-loader. Installation is as simple as copying two files over to the compact flash and running CyaCE.

Upon boot-up QT will automatically go into a calibration mode and then take you to the QT desktop. If the interface looks slightly familiar it's because QT is the same set of widgets used by KDE. The handheld runs an embedded version that draws directly to the framebuffer to avoid the potential overhead X brings. I've been assured that most QT applications can simply be recompiled and run on the handheld with only minor changes to the interface to reflect the small screen size.

QT Screenshot

Three megabytes? How is that possible? Simple -- there isn't much in the distribution. In total there's maybe half a dozen applications, for the most part they're nothing more than "hello worlds"; an application written to prove the system works. For example, the text editor is nothing more than a large text entry box with no easy means of saving files or loading them, for that matter. It takes after the memo application found in the PalmOS and uses the first line of text as an identifier for later retrieval. In short, don't expect to be able to customize startup scripts with this application.

Pocket Linux

Pocket Linux is another pre-made distribution for the handheld, probably more widely known than QT's Palmtop environment since it has been featured in places such as the Embedded Linux Journal.

Pocket Linux is an attempt to recreate the same PIM-style interface you've seen on PalmOS devices only using Linux. In order to be cross-platform and run on as many handheld systems as possible, the Pocket Linux interface is written almost entirely in Java. While the use of Java does make it easier to program for, it also makes it considerably slower when compared with other distributions. Even just booting the interface on my Casio took about a minute, during such time I was subjected to a nice blue screen; when Kaffe initializes the framebuffer you get a blue screen until the interface loads. After the interface loads the response times are decent. I won't go so far as calling them fast however, switching applications still has a considerable delay.

QT Screenshot

Although the use of Java certainly does make the system more extensible, I can't help but wonder why it was done. Sure, Windows CE runs on many different platforms and that requires users to search for versions of applications that will run on their system and some applications aren't even available on all platforms -- but this is Linux. In other words, if you want to run an application on your system you just compile it yourself.

Pocket Linux does use Linux internally and provides access via a serial PPP interface; this means that you can use Linux on the road provided you have a laptop with a serial cable with you.

Pre-made Distributions  << Page 2 of 9  >>