Linux on a Transmonde Vibrant
When I went to install Linux on my Transmonde Vibrant notebook computer,
I discovered that while other notebook brands had Web pages explaining
how to install and configure Linux on them, there were no such pages for
Transmondes. Hopefully this page will help other Transmonde users get Linux
up and running on their computers. Although I've only worked with Vibrants,
I think that many of these tips apply to the newer Vivante line as well.
NOTE: I am far from a Linux expert, so I do not even pretend
to claim that any tips or suggestions here are the best way to do things.
If you have better solutions, please email me. Also, the usual standard
disclaimers apply: These solutions worked on my computer, but they may
not work on yours. Although I doubt they will, I accept no responsibility
if any tips given here do something bad to your computer.
The only distribution I attempted to install on my computer was RedHat.
I've worked with versions 4.1, 4.2, and 5.0.
I ran into problems partitioning my hard disk, because it seems that
Transmonde formats its hard drives as FAT32, which is not supported by
FIPS, the only freeware non-destructive hard disk partitioner that I know
of. You can either repartition your hard drive using Win95's FDISK program
and lose all your data (although you can then reinstall Windows 95 and
all the drivers using the CD-ROM and diskettes that shipped with your computer,
if you so desire) or purchase a commercial program. I got PowerQuest's
PartitionMagic for about $60 and it worked great.
The main installation hitch I ran into was that Linux's PCMCIA package,
pcmcia-cs, has trouble recognizing Transmonde's PCMCIA hardware. I think
this is because Transmonde's PCMCIA slots support CardBus cards, which
pcmcia-cs versions earlier than 2.9 do not support at all and which later
versions have only experimental support for. This means that the installation
program for RedHat versions 4.1 and earlier cannot recognize PCMCIA slots.
RedHat version 4.2 was able to recognize my PCMCIA slots, but for some
reason RedHat 5.0 could not, although it ships with pcmcia-cs 2.9.12, which
does support CardBus sockets.
This is not a huge problem, because as I'll show you below, you can
get pcmcia-cs working once you have Linux installed on your computer. But
if you were counting on installing Linux via a method that needs a PC card
(for example, an NFS or FTP install over a PCMCIA network card), you'll
probably want to find another method. I settled on purchasing a CD-ROM
from Cheap*Bytes. It was only about
$7 including shipping and worked perfectly. (The installation program has
no problems recognizing the CD-ROM drive.)
Getting pcmcia-cs working
If you do manage to get Linux installed using a non-PCMCIA method, it's
fairly easy to get PCMCIA working once you boot your new Linux machine.
I wasn't able to get the RPM of pcmcia-cs to work, so I tried grabbing
the original tarfile and compiling it myself, and that worked fine. This
isn't too hard to do:
I've had no problems with PCMCIA since doing this, but I've only tried
a standard PC card ethernet/modem combo. I don't have any CardBus or Zoomed
Video cards to test, so I can't tell you whether they work or not.
You'll need to install the kernel sources before installing the pcmcia-cs
package, although you don't need to recompile your kernel to use pcmcia-cs.
Also, you can remove the pcmcia-cs RPM by typing rpm -e pcmcia-cs.
(You can ignore the message "Package pcmcia-cs is not installed" if you
Get the original distribution from hyper.stanford.edu:
Put the .tar.gz file that you've downloaded somewhere on your hard disk.
I put it in /usr/src
Unpack the file by typing tar -xvfz [file name].
cd into the directory created by tar. (It will be called pcmcia-cs-x.x.x,
where x.x.x is the version number, e.g. 3.0.0)
Type make config. You can probably accept the defaults given for
all the options if you don't know what you're doing.
Type make all, then make install.
Reboot your computer.
More post-installation configuration
The good news is that once you've cleared the installation and pcmcia-cs
hurdles, Linux runs very smoothly, so you don't have to do much post-installation
configuration. Here are some notes on some of the other pieces of hardware
in your notebook:
- Mounting your Windows partition: In order to mount your FAT32 partition under Linux, you'll need to be running kernel 2.0.34 or higher.
CD-ROM drive: It should be all set up once installation has completed.
Mine is device /dev/hdb (on the Vivante, it is /dev/hdc) and the RedHat
installation program automatically makes a link to /dev/cdrom.
Floppy drive: It's device /dev/fd0. If you have the CD-ROM drive
in the drive bay, you can plug and unplug the floppy drive from the external
drive port while Linux is running without any problems (but make sure you
unmount the floppy before unplugging it).
Touchpad: Configure it as a PS/2 mouse for GPM or for X Windows.
A lot of the special touchpad settings from Windows 95 (such as tapping
the touchpad to click) also work in Linux. There's also a special Synaptics
touchpad configuration program available if you want to fiddle some more
with your touchpad settings: http://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/Linux/distributions/redhat/contrib/i386/synaptics-0.1.1-1.i386.rpm
Parallel port: Although I'd expect my parallel port to be /dev/lp0,
it's actually /dev/lp1. If you're setting up a printer or something and
/dev/lp0 doesn't work, try /dev/lp1.
Modem: I don't have an internal modem in my computer, so I can't
help you with that. If you're using a PCMCIA modem, the PCMCIA utilities
should automatically set up a link from the device to /dev/modem.
XFree86 video settings: The Vibrant
has a Chips & Technology 65550 video card with 2 MB of video memory.
The Vivante has a a C & T
65555 video card, also with 2 MB of video memory. Both are supported by XFree's
SVGA X server. I use the Extended Super VGA
horizontal sync rate (800x600 at 60 Hz) and a vertical sync rate of 50-70.
These may not be the best settings, but they don't blow out my LCD screen,
and they let me run X at 800x600 with 16-bit color. RedHat set up X so
it runs in 8-bit color by default; running startx -- -bpp 16 will
let you run in 16-bit color. If you decide you like it, you can create
a file called .xserverrc in your home directory and put the following
exec X :0 -bpp 16
Then X will always start up in 16-bit color.
Sound card configuration: I was able to get 8-bit sound working
by saying that the sound card was a SoundBlaster Pro. From what I've heard,
it's impossible to get 16-bit sound because so-called "SoundBlaster compatible"
cards like the ESS one in the Vibrant are actually only SoundBlaster Pro
(8-bit) compatible, not SoundBlaster 16 (16-bit) compatible. If anyone
does get 16-bit sound working, please email me and I'll put the solution
To get sound working, you first need to compile SoundBlaster sound
support into your kernel. See the Kernel-HOWTO for information on how to
do this if you don't know -- it's not terribly difficult. I personally
compiled the driver as a module. Once I had the driver in the kernel, I
used RedHat's sndconfig program that ships with RedHat 5.0 to configure
my sound card. I'm not sure how it would work on other distributions, but
if it helps, here are the sound lines from my /etc/conf.modules:
# SoundBlaster support
options -k sb io=0x220 irq=5 dma=1
# MIDI support
options -k opl3 io=0x388
Of course, you'll need to put your own settings in there if you've changed
them. I/O 0x220, IRQ 5, and DMA 1 are the default settings that my computer
shipped with. You can find the settings used by your computer by going
into Setup (by hitting F8 as your computer boots) and going into Advanced
Configuration under one of the headings. Ignore the second DMA channel;
that's the 16-bit DMA channel, which obviously isn't necessary if you're
only running in 8-bit mode.
Advanced Power Management (APM) configuration: Last I heard, Vibrants
have a BIOS bug that means that they don't support APM under Linux. You
can try configuring it into the kernel if you'd like, but make sure you
keep a backup kernel on hand, since the way the bug manifests itself is
that it hangs the computer on boot up.
Here are some other pages that might be useful:
If you have more questions or comments about setting up Linux on a Transmonde
notebook, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, and good luck!
Special thanks to Owen Magee for giving me permission to
add his post to this page, as well as correcting some of my information.
Lisa Cozzens / email@example.com / Last modified August 26, 1998