More info on Minix port to Jornada 680

modified: 03 Jan 2003

Here are some notes from an e-mail received from Robert Solomon <wogsol@bestweb.net> on 1 Jan 2003.

While you're tinkering... I wonder if you would revise information about the Minix-SH (Jornada 680) port (http://minixsh.tripod.co.jp/index.html):

I've put in a few days trying (testing?) this port and can provide the following information. I feel that it is important that people who put in the time to install the port know what they are getting into.

The Minix-SH port is a working Minix system, complete with man-pages, vi and even a game... It is neat to see Minix running on this tiny palmtop. However, several important features of a working *n*x system are missing. There is no c compiler included with the system. The source code is not up on the web anywhere I can find it.

The keyboard driver is for the Japanese keyboard and although my US keyboard is generally usable, about half the punctuation is on the wrong keys and/or not to be found anywhere.

The man page for keymap ends with the note: "MINIX/SH doesn't support keymap yet." I've tried emailing the author at minixsh@yahoo.co.jp and have not received a response.

... and another note from Robert Solomon <wogsol@bestweb.net>:

My goal is to have some kind of Unix on an inexpensive lightweight platform with a keyboard. I imagine using this device for writing, email, telnetting and sshing and as a serial terminal. Devices of this sort that are or have recently been on the market include those built for the wince "HPC" OS and Symbian devices such as the Psion and identical Mako devices. I bought a used Jornada 680 in part because of the Minix port and because it was available for $200 US.

Unix ports I have found include: Minix-SH, NET-BSD for SH3 as well as many other platforms built for wince, and several Linux for Psion ports. I've already commented on Minix-SH. The NET-BSD ports are in active development, but require a NET-BSD box for building and lack power management, that is, you can't suspend the handheld while is is running BSD. The Linux-Psion ports look quite mature at a distance. I decided against a Psion because it is not easily/inexpensively available here in the US.

Three issues on the HPC-SH3 platform are:

  1. Power management -- The device needs to be able to suspend to be useful for working on the train. Even where power management is supported, as in Minix-SH, the device still can't power down the flash memory card Minix was booted from -- seems like this could be worked around with a RAM disk, but it hasn't been.
  2. Every time you boot into *n*x everything not on the flash card is erased, so if you reboot wince, you end up with the "out of box experience", have to set time, locality, calibrate pen etc.
  3. The keyboard to SH3 interface is proprietary. Mapping varies depending on the intended market for the device. The keyboard interface is detailed on the Minix-SH website. NET-BSD-HPCSH has just got a US keyboard mapping.
For me, the most useful solution at the moment is a series of ports of Unix programs to wince on many HPC platforms. If money were not an issue, I'd get an ultra-light notebook, Fujitsu?, and forget all these HPC devices.

Some useful links:

Hope this all helps.

Mail comments on this page to: Al Woodhull <awoodhull@hampshire.edu>

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