It features a 486 Cyrix CPU (although it says AMD on a sticker at the outside of the case, it says Cyrix in the inside on the label at the chip), 4MB RAM, 163MB HDD and a mono display. The BIOS is made by AWARD. Floppy 1.44MB and power supply are external. The machines weight is app. 1.5kg (external accessories included). There is no PCI.
Any boot from Floppy (HAL91, muLinux) failed. I got this message:
pci_init: no BIOS32 detected unknown interrupt unknown interrupt Calibrating delay loop..
There seems to be a problem with kernel 2.0.x, which could be verified later when trying a 2.0.38 kernel from Debian. Building a custom 2.0.39 failed, because the toolchain for building (Debian Woody) was too new for it. *g*
One really big problem was the geometry of the harddisk. Since there is no CD-ROM drive attached to at and my host computer does not have a floppy, I chose to take the harddisk out of the Gempower and into an external case for connecting it via PCMCIA with the host computer.
Now here comes the problem: the Linux on the host saw a 163 GB harddisk while the Gempower saw a 200 GB harddisk. Well, LiLo did not like that and said good-bye with a promising "40 40 40 ..." or "01 01 01 ..." at the first stage. Fortunately GNU grub works well.
This was fine until I got an operating system on the harddisk and tried booting it on the Gempower. EXT2 encountered some "short read" failures when initialising the root partition.
fsck went well,
mount could mount the partition too, though it never appeared the partition list when invoking
mount withouth arguments. Strangely, the whole filesystem was useable.
Afterwards, I tried to partition from the somewhat-running system on the Gempower which resulted in the very same error as seen above when mounting the partition on my host computer.
So finally, the solution was to create a minimal system/partitioning on the harddisk when connected to the host. Then I had to modify the harddisk type in the BIOS of the Gempower to match 163MB, the closest type was 161MB. Now partition the disk on the laptop with
fdisk from the minimal system and put it back into the external case to start installing the real system.
First, I have taken
which seemed to work. But it really was too small for the vast 163MB and I did not want to compile every other package on the Gempower, thus looked further.
After trying several mini-distributions (PeeWee, Trinux, Tomsrbt, ClieLinux, Vector), I decided on Debian: a known system which does not try to re-arrange the whole directory structure in a weird way as some of the aforementioned distris do.
For a start, I tried Woody, but reverted to Potato which seemed to have a slightly smaller memory footprint (remember: 4MB RAM). Long live
chroot. But the real bummer was a custom 2.2.20 kernel, which took the startup time down from 10 minutes to 2, because the kernel now uses 1 MB RAM less. I had to build a custom one anyway in order to get PCMCIA working.
The system is useable (even networking via PCMCIA), but still awfully slow when installing packages via
apt-get. So perhaps it is advisable to try an older distribution like Ham, which perhaps works with libc5, though I never used it before.
Some more hints can be found there:
Getting Linux into Small Machines - HOWTO(http://www.xs4all.nl/~lennartb/rescuedisk/index.html) by L.C. Benschop. Also Bruce Richardson has written a HOWTO(http://website.lineone.net/~brichardson/linux/4mb_laptops/4mb_Laptops.html) on installing a modern Linux distribution (specifically Slackware 7.0) on to laptops with 4MB RAM and <= 200MB hard disks. And I will give Vector Linux a try, beccause this distribution is also targeted to computers with small resources.
You have to use the driver
Neither framebuffer nor X11 (4MB RAM!) was tried. The standard resolution of 80x24 works. :)
There seems to be no sound chip in it. Did not see one when opening the case.
Does not exist.
Both do not exist. Though the screen is blanked after a couple of minutes when not used and the harddisk is spun down.