The Libretto is a marvel of miniaturization. It's a little too big (210x114x35 mm) to be called a palmtop -- at least, it won't fit in the palm of anyone who would also want to type on it! Everything one needs in a real computer is there, and there are surprisingly few compromises. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do when I saw one was to get Linux running on it. (Why waste such an engineering gem on Windows 95?)
I've used Linux since 1.0.9, and UNIX since version 6, so I considered myself reasonably experienced, having installed Linux around twenty times. Getting Linux to run on the Libretto was one of the trickier installations I've done. It certainly helped to know that it was possible; for this reason, I would like to thank the authors of the following web pages, found using an AltaVista search for ``+libretto +linux'':
This relates how to install Slackware 3.x on a Libretto 50 via NFS.
This describes how to install Red Hat Linux (but presumably any Linux) by removing the Libretto's hard drive, attaching it to the spare IDE connector of a ``real'' PC, doing the installation there, then reinstalling the drive in the Libretto.
I had also read (well, looked at with interest and a renewed desire to learn Japanese) the web pages and news posts of many Japanese Linuxers who have been installing Linux on their Libretto 20s, 30s, etc., for some time now.
I also searched Kenneth Harker's Linux on Laptops page, http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/linux-laptop/, which is where you should be looking if you haven't already made up your mind to try Linux on a Libretto. This page has pointers to dozens of documents like this one, each of which describes how Linux can be installed and used on one or more types of portable PCs. One of those, Alan's PC110 Page, http://toy.cabi.net/, contains an inspiring account of Linux on what has got to be the smallest full-featured PC on earth. The Libretto is a close second (about 20 mm longer, other dimensions about the same; it weighs about 150 g more than the PC110).
Kenneth Harker also maintains the Linux Laptop Volunteer Support Database, http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/linux-laptop/volunteer.html, a searchable list of folks who are willing to give advice to those seeking to install Linux on portable computers. On that list, I found Keith Packard, firstname.lastname@example.org, who offered encouragement and an excellent suggestion which I ignored initially (more on this below).
For general information on the Libretto in English, visit Toshiba USA's Libretto pages, http://www.toshiba.com/tais/csd/products/portable/libretto/home.htm. The parent company maintains a larger Libretto Web site in Japanese, http://www2.toshiba.co.jp/pc/libretto/, with photos of a variety of add-ons that apparently are not available outside of Japan so far. A good unofficial source of information on all Libretto models, including those unavailable in the US, is Adorable's Libretto Page, http://www.cerfnet.com/~adorable/libretto.html, which also includes information about do-it-yourself upgrades, a commented list of world-wide mail-order suppliers of Librettos, and a short but useful list of Libretto links.
After I had finished the adventure recounted below, I tried another AltaVista search, and found Grant Taylor's Portable Computing with Linux pages, http://www.picante.com/~gtaylor/portable/, in which the author describes his own experiences installing Red Hat Linux on a Libretto 30, using the method described in Linux on the Libretto, http://www.ucolick.org/~sutin/libretto.html. Grant's pages contain a great deal more of interest, including details of getting a wireless Internet connection using a CDPD modem, and a pointer to Matt Cowles's Libretto page, http://www.visi.com/~mdc/libretto.html. Matt's page describes another installation using the same approach, with details of how to remove the Libretto's internal drive and connect it to another PC.
The most recent HTML version of this document can be found at http://ecg.mit.edu/george/libretto.html. SGML, Plain text, PostScript, and LaTeX versions are also available; links to these may be found in the HTML version.
If this document is useful to you, please send me a postcard from your part of the world (my son collects stamps, and I would appreciate hearing about your experiences with Linux on the Libretto). My snailmail address is:
George Moody MIT Room E25-506A Cambridge, MA 02139 USA