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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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 it.)
  3. Get the original distribution from /pub/pcmcia
  4. Put the .tar.gz file that you've downloaded somewhere on your hard disk. I put it in /usr/src
  5. Unpack the file by typing tar -xvfz [file name].
  6. 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)
  7. Type make config. You can probably accept the defaults given for all the options if you don't know what you're doing.
  8. Type make all, then make install.
  9. Reboot your computer.
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.

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:

Other questions?

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 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 / / Last modified August 26, 1998