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Linux on the COMPAQ iPAQ H3600 PDA


Currently the iPAQ H3600 sold by COMPAQ is only available with a proprietary operating system. You may buy an iPAQ with Linux pre-installed from Xtops.DE


Work on handheld computing in general, and the H3600 in particular, is hosted at HandHelds.ORG. If you peruse that site, you'll see things are very active indeed on the H3600.

Besides LISA mLinux , there is also various other commercial work going on, in addition to Compaq's efforts, including Companion Link software, etc. The PocketLinux Linux distribution, seems no longer available (http://www.pocketlinux.com isn't available anymore.

Though the H3600 comes with WindowsCE, you'll note that COMPAQ people are working on Linux on the H3600.

The mailing lists hosted at handhelds.org [archived link] , are including:

  • <handhelds@handhelds.org>
  • <linux@handhelds.org>
  • <ipaq@handhelds.org>

You may also find IRC irc://irc.openprojects.net #ipaq

For discussions of generic open source software on handhelds, Linux, and iPAQ specific discussions.

Carl Worth's notes on the iPAQ [archived link].

Here's some iPAQ stuff (ports, apps, ..) from Sam Engstroem: Drawcal Drawnote Voicenote Dillo xvkbd/fin gSoko User interface stuff Bluetooth GPRS

Manufacturer information of the iPAQ H3600: COMPAQ.

iPAQ Series

  • H3630 16MB ROM, 32MB RAM, WinCE 3.0, 4096 colors, Linux works
  • H3660 16MB ROM, 64MB RAM, WinCE 3.0, 4096 colors, Linux works
  • H3760 32MB ROM, 64MB RAM, Pocket PC 2002, 4096 colors, Linux works
  • H3850 32MB ROM, 64MB RAM, Pocket PC 2002, 65k colors, Linux works [archived link]
  • H3870 32MB ROM, 64MB RAM, Pocket PC 2002, 65k colors, Bluetooth, Linux works [archived link]

Braille Terminal

Stéphane Doyon wrote at the iPAQ mailing list: "We (Nicolas Pitre and myself) have successfully ported BRLTTY to the iPaq and tested the setup by interfacing with a BrailleLite 18 through the serial port. BRLTTY is a program that allows access to the Linux text-mode console using various brands of Braille displays. The BrailleLite is a small electronic Braille notetaker device which can act as a small refreshable Braille display. It also has keys so I can not only read but also type. So there's just the iPaq and the BrailleLite device (with a horrible cable in between) and that's all I need to fully use the console on the iPaq (in text-mode). A pretty powerful setup, yet very small. At the Ottawa Linux Symposium in July, using a network card in my iPaq and borrowing the internet connection they supplied, I was actually able to logon to the net and go read my E-mail, using ssh, pine and lynx! It should be possible to duplicate this setup with other Braille display models or other PDAs."


Hardware Extensions

Tapani J. Otala describes how to build: Battery Extender, Slim CompactFlash Expansion Pack, Storage Brick, Dual I/O Cradle (USB/RS232), Car MP3 Player


For a list of compatible CompactFlash or PCMCIA cards, please go to the COMPAQ - CF Card List. Currently known as working with Linux is the Kingston Compact I/O Ethernet Adapter CIO10T (10BaseT). More cards you will find soon (hopefully) in the List of Supported PCMCIA Cards. If you know of a working card, please let me know.

Here is a list of peripheral devices whose operation have been confirmed by Sharp, and a wish list that Sharp is willing to support for the SL-5000D.

The PCMCIA Card Services for StrongARM project of the Carnegie Mellon Wearable Group is an effort to make PCMCIA Card Services available to users of Linux on the ARM architecture. Specifically, the StrongARM SA-1100 (and SA-1110) processor includes an integrated PCMCIA controller; it is this feature which is targeted by the project.

InfraRed Port


You may find some entries (around February 2001, look for COMPAQ iPAQ) in the mailing list archiv of the Linux/IrDA Project. Also the Kernel >= 2.4.17 will probably contain a FIR driver.

Remote Control

See the LIRC project.


For BlueTooth on the iPAQ 3870 see the page of Marcel Holtmann [archived link].



For the Stowaway keyboard, there is a SDK available at the manufacturers site: ThinkOutSide. Here you may find the Compaq Microkeyboard and other small keyboards.



The Familiar Project [archived link] is composed of a group of loosely knit developers all contributing to creating the next generation of PDA OS. Currently, most of our development time is being put towards producing a stable, and full featured Linux distribution for the Compaq iPAQ h3600-series of handheld computers, as well as apps to run on top of the distribution.

Currently Familiar's Linux distribution supports some of the following key features:

  • Entirely based on XFree86's/keithp's Tiny-X server, which includes the latest RENDER extension.
  • Anti-Aliased True-Type Font support in rxvt, blackbox, and fltk (this is extended to any X application using the Xft APIs).
  • OpenSSH's ssh and sshd included by default.
  • The latest releases include JFFS2 supported, which enables you to have read/write access to the iPAQ's Flash.
  • Integrated Python v2.0 w/ PyGtk and PyGDKImlib.
  • Binary and Library compatible w/ Debian's ARM distribution. In most cases, programs (as long as their dependencies are met) can be taken from Debian and executed on the iPAQ w/out issue.
  • Full package support based on ipkg.

Try IpkgFind: Your familiar search engine to look up more than 2.600 packages.


The QPE distribution is based on QT-Embedded.


Open Palmtop Integrated Environment - Opie [archived link] is a "fork" of the Qtopia codebase. Qtopia (formerly QPE) was written mostly by employees of TrollTech and uses the Qt Embedded toolkit which is produced by TrollTech.


The intimate project [archived link] is a fully blown debian based linux distribution for the Compaq iPAQ. Taking the work being done by the Familiar Project and combining it with fully blown debian package management, and access to the thousands of existing debian arm packages. The goal is simple. We want the best of both worlds. Sure... it won't fit in the 16MB Flash but for the lucky few with microdrives then this is the way ahead. The minimum requirements are currently around 140MB of storage for the base image.

LISA mLinux

The German manufacturer LISA offers a commercial distribution based on QTembedded. The pre-installed mLinux configuration includes: Kernel 2.4.x, bash2, terminal rxvt, X Window System with twm-Windowmanager, Telnet server and client, PPP server with connection-script to make a network connection to a Linux-PC without network card, softkeyboard, xscribble (handwriting-recognition), MP3-Player, ssh client and server.


Japan's 10art-ni Corp. announced "Melon," a kit that runs Linux on Compaq Computer Corp.'s "iPAQ" personal digital assistant. "Melon(in Japanese) will be provided in the form of a 64MB CompactFlash card. It contains all the necessary software. It has employed the Linux distribution for the "Familiar0.4.1" PDA, developed by the Familiar Project , and the "Sikigami" GUI environment developed by AXE Inc. It also includes such functions as handwritten character recognition, scheduler, address book and notepad as accessory programs.

So far there have been some existing Linux environments that run on iPAQ, but all of them have been used by replacing the main unit's flash ROM. Therefore, Windows CE and Linux could not co-exist. But Melon is characterized by its capability of co-existence with Windows CE. However, it rewrites the data of the Windows CE application, and therefore, users must take data in a backup file in any way before they execute Melon."


The PIXIL PDA suite offers a complete PDA system including an Operating Environment, a full set of PIM applications, and extras you wouldn't expect including an e-mail client, and a web browser. It also includes a preview release of PIXIL Desktop - an information manager and synchronization tool for your Windows computer. The Microwindows graphical windowing system is at the core of the PIXIL PDA solution. Unlike other windowing systems, Microwindows was engineered from the ground up specifically for embedded Linux. PIXIL PDA features minimal disk and RAM requirements, is designed for portability, and can run on a wide variety of hardware platforms including StrongARM, MIPS, PowerPC, SH, and x86 processors.


Other OS


This HOWTO [archived link] will explain how to safely install and maintain all QNX related software from your iPAQ. Several installation options are available depending on what optional iPAQ hardware you have available or if you would like to dual boot Microsoft's PocketPC and the QNX Software Reference Platform.

QNX on the iPAQ


IMEC has ported the rtlinux code (rtlinux-3.0) to the SA11x0.

MS-Windows CE Connectivity

This HOWTO will tell you how to set up a masqueraded PPP connection via IrDA or serial port from a MS-Windows CE PC Companion to a Linux based notebook computer.

Other Resources

  • The LART is a small yet powerful embedded computer capable of running Linux, built around an Intel SA-1100 StrongARM processor.Its performance is around 250 MIPS while consuming less than 1 Watt of power.In a standard configuration it holds 32MB DRAM and 4MB Flash ROM, which is sufficient for a Linux kernel and a sizeable ramdisk image.
  • Documentation, photos and a source code snapshot for using an Ericsson Mobile Phone (T68i with integrated Bluetooth => interworks with the iPAQ 3870) as input device (it has both a "joystick" usable as mouse as well as its keys) is available here [archived link]. The software can also be used via a serial cable and with other (at least Ericsson) phones.


A general survey of PDA accessories for Linux PDAs you may find here.


Make your own cable to attach your favorite accessory to your iPAQ PocketPC handheld device!!! For Compaq iPAQ 3600 Series PocketPCs. Using this unique connector/cable, you can connect your iPAQ PocketPC handheld device to a variety of RS232-type devices. Please note this PDF schematic to determine if this connector/cable will suit your needs. Note that we have cut the cable in half and that you will be receiving one-half of the dual-connector cable indicated in the PDF schematic, as illustrated in the picture below. The cable length included with the connector is approximately 6 inches long.


  • Jim Gettys - Technology and Corporate Development Compaq Computer Corporation <jg_at_pa.dec.com>
  • Kiss Gabor <kissg_at_sztaki.hu>

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© Werner Heuser 1997-2015 · http://tuxmobil.org/pda_linux_ipaq.html · last change Fri May 3 2013