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Debian GNU/Linux for PDAs an Unofficial Proposal

Writing the Linux Mobile Guide - Installing, Maintaining and Tuning of Linux on Mobile Computers, I researched Linux applications for PDAs. Since Debian/GNU Linux is my favorite distribution I started to collect information about PDA related Debian packages. This text reflects my personal thoughts only. It's not an official Debian document. The list is probably incomplete yet.

Back to Debian/GNU Linux and Knoppix for Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs, Mobile Phones, Portable Players, ...


Program Description Developer Site
kitchensync Synchronization framework.  
kdebluetooth-irmcsync IrMCSync Konnector for kitchensync  
synce-serial SynCE connection manipulation scripts.  
malsync communicates between a 3Com Pilot and the AvantGo webservers (and other MAL enabled servers)  
coldsync syncing PalmOS PDAs with a Unix workstation with a focus on consistancy of data  
multisync program to synchronize PIM data  
multisync-tools PIM Synchronisation Command Line Tools  
unison file-synchronization tool for Unix and Windows  
lpkg install Newton packages from your Linux machine to your Apple's Newton MessagePad PDA  
irda-tools IrDA handling tools for Linux  
ircp utility for "beaming" files via IrDA  
bluez-sdp BlueZ Bluetooth SDP daemon and tool  
bluez-pcmcia PCMCIA support files for BlueZ 2.0 Bluetooth tools  
bluez-utils utilities for controlling Bluetooth devices  
affix User space utilities for the Affix Bluetooth protocol stack  
osflash Reflash the OS of a Palm Computing Device  
p3nfs Mount the file systems on the Psion/Symbian PDA/Phone.  
romeo Palm ROM Discombobulator  
klipsi remote cut & paste for Psion PDA  
ic35link Synchronization tools for the Siemens IC35 PDA  
kpsion Backup and Restore of a Psion PDA  
plptools Access a Psion PDA over a serial link  
openobex-apps Object Exchange Protocol apps  
obexserver Receive files with OBEX protocol  
wayv enables human computer interaction, especially using gestures inputed via mouse  
xstroke X11 pen-based character input  
pyrite-publisher building PalmPilot e-texts in the de facto standard Doc format (former palm-doctoolkit)  
Matt Zimmermann offers Debian packages for the SHARP SL-5500 Zaurus  
op-advancedfm-fb Opie Advanced File Manager, this is an example for app. 170 OPIE packages, all named op-*  
vrdeb offers Debian packages for the Agenda VR3  
kcemirror Windows CE remote control tool like VNC  
makeztxt Create zTXT databases from ASCII files to read them in a Palm  
gok GNOME Onscreen Keyboard  
makeztxt Create zTXT databases from ASCII files to read them in a Palm.  
gpe-contacts Contact manager for GPE.  
phpgroupware-addressbook phpGrouhpWare addressbook management module  

Mobile Debian

The `debian-pilot` mailing list is not for people who fly airplanes :-) It's for people who run Debian on the 3com Palm-Pilot.

The `debian-handheld` mailing list is for people who run Debian on handheld devices.

The Debian Zaurus project aims to create a full-featured, plug-and-play Debian environment for the Zaurus, with all the trimmings, including package management with dpkg and apt. A small demo is available.

Debian provides ARM ports.

See also my Debian Laptop Proposal.

Quotes from Debian Weekly News - DWN:

Mobile Debian? Josh Hansen [27] wondered if there is any current plan for a mobile edition of the Debian distribution, for use on handhelds like the iPAQ. Shaleh [28] explained that Debian has been used as a basis for the iPaq's linux distribution. However, it is not designed for handhelds so they changed a lot. Even use a different (but very very similar) packaging format. Additionally, there is the [29] Intimate Project which is a fully blown Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution for the Compaq iPAQ, and the [30] Familiar Project that works on creating the next generation of PDA OS, and that has just recently published the [31] release candidate for v0.5.1. ...

... Debian on Zaurus PDA. Joey Hess [6] informed us that it looks like Sharp's Zaurus PDA (the one with the neat integrated keyboard) uses busybox dpkg and Debian packages. There's also a [7] sourceforge project which covers open source development of tools, applications, and games for the Zaurus PDA. ...

... Debian on the Sharp Zaurus. Matt Zimmerman recently had the good [51] fortune of having one of these delightful little toys come into his possession. Matt is interested in creating a full-featured Debian environment for the Zaurus, with all the trimmings (including package management with dpkg and apt). Philip Blundell pointed to the [52] GPE effort which also uses Debian as base distribution apparently. ...

... Debian Zaurus Update. Matt Zimmerman released an [43] update report about Debian on handhelds in general and the Zaurus in particular. He added a brief record of where we've been and where we stand on current development. [44] Opie packages for example are coming along wonderfully, and are progressing into Debian unstable. Phil Blundell has further packaged some parts of [45] GPE for Debian, an X11- and GTK-based desktop project. ...

... Familiar Packages for Debian? Russell Coker [30] pondered packaging the [31] Familiar distribution of Linux for Debian. It consists of a boot loader (non-linux binary), an image of the root file system (JFFS2 file system image) which is about 13 MB, a kernel patch for 2.4.19, gcc and binutils for cross-compiling ARM code on an i386 platform and finally a complete tool chain. This is a total of about 130 MB.


vrdeb is a set of utilities to compile and manage source and binary packages for the Agenda VR3 Linux pda. As implied by the name, vrdeb uses the Debian packaging format.


Pocket Workstation - Debian on Handhelds features:

  • Full Debian GNU/Linux operating environment, with easy access to the many GB of available software. Want the Evolution groupware system and have 80MB free space on your SD card? Run "apt-get install evolution", go eat lunch and come back to find it ready to run. No porting needed.
  • includes X11 able to run most Linux applications - it supports virtual screens larger than the physical screen, realtime anti-aliased scaling and rotation, 3-mouse-button emulation and a full keyboard (useful i.e. if you need to send Ctrl-Alt-Del to an application).
  • VNC client [1]fbvnc (same features as X11 above) - remote administer your NT box from your Zaurus.
  • Runs completely out of a single directory (a 128MB MMC card is ideal), no re-flashing or modification of the existing operating system is required. [3][IMG]
  • Switch between qtopia and X11 whenever you like without rebooting or needing to stop any of your X11 applications. This currently still requires waiting half a minute for QPE to load, but I'm working on making it near-instantaneous.
  • See also the Debian-On-Zaurus-HOWTO [archived link].

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© Werner Heuser 1997-2015 · http://tuxmobil.org/debian_linux_pda.html · last change Wed Apr 16 2008