Linux on the WinBook FX

I've gotten Linux installed pretty well on my WinBook FX (affectionately known as Linboox). The out-of-the-box configuration was as follows:

I installed the RedHat 4.1 Linux release. Installation was fairly smooth, except for a few points: needing both the floppy and the CD-ROM at the same time, and the XFree86 configuration.

Needing floppy and CD-ROM at the same time

RedHat basically requires that you have both the floppy and the CD-ROM mounted at the same time. Since there is only one drive bay, you can't do that. There are quite a few ways around this. One possibility would be to borrow either a PCMCIA floppy or a PCMCIA CD-ROM drive, so both are available at the same time. Another entirely reasonable approach would be to mount the CD on another workstation, export it via NFS, and use a PCMCIA ethernet card to mount over NFS.

Another approach might be to boot DOS first, with the CD mounted, and use d:/dosutils/autoboot.bat to install Linux. I was not able to try this, as I wiped Windows 95 too early (some might say not early enough!), but a posting on the RedHat mailing describes success, as does a private e-mail from Mitch Greess. Mitch also pointed me to the installation instructions on the Red Hat site. It's beginning to look like this is the way to go if you're not stupid like me :-).

Paul Anderson reports that it's possible to go into the BIOS and set it to boot from CD-ROM directly, which would be another way around the problem.

I chose a different approach, more time consuming but not requiring any borrowed hardware (I set it up over the weekend when I didn't have access to the equipment at school). The general plan was to get a bootable Linux onto the hard drive from floppies, swap in the CD-ROM drive, copy the RedHat CD to a partition on the hard drive, swap the floppy back in, boot from the RedHat bootdisk, and mount the full distribution from the hard drive.

I made my own bootdisk to install Linux onto the hard drive, using the Bootdisk HOWTO. It may be that you can use the RedHat 4.1 bootdisk in rescue mode, but I haven't tried that.

The hard drive is /dev/hda, and the CD-ROM drive is /dev/hdb. It is not possible to hot-swap between CD and floppy drives, although Neil Carlson posted to the RedHat mailing list that he was able to fake it by using the suspend-to-disk feature. I wasn't able to get this to work, however.

XFree86 configuration

The video chip is the Cirrus 7548. This chip is not listed as supported by XFree86 3.2, but it is unofficially supported. It is listed as supported in 3.2A (a beta release), but as far as I could tell, there were no significant changes in the clgd7548 support between 3.2 and 3.2A.

Here's the XF86Config file. I had some trouble setting it up. At first, the Modeline was wrong for the LCD, so it would display scary looking garbage when first started. Toggling the LCD/CRT (Fn-F12) control would fix it, but it was still unpleasant. I arrived at the correct Modeline by running xvidtune after getting the screen to be ok with the LCD/CRT control, then tweaking some of the clock values. Thanks to frithjof for pointing out that selecting the right clock rate in the Modeline was the way to fix the problem. He also reports that he needs an Option "use_modeline" line.

Configure the mouse as a PS/2 mouse. I have 3-button emulation enabled too.


I haven't gotten sound configured yet. It's not a high priority for me, but if you know how to configure sound for the Winbook FX, let me know and I'll post it here.

2 Feb 1999: Jason Girard reports that he's gotten sound to work on the FX by using the ESS 1686 driver (or maybe it's 1868). The BIOS reports that the chip is an 1878, but it seems to work fine.


I prefer the Caps Lock key to function as control, and the Windows keys to function as alt. Thus, I've got the following .Xmodmap file:

remove Lock = Caps_Lock
clear control
add control = Control_L
add control = Caps_Lock

keycode 116 = Alt_L
keycode 115 = Alt_R
clear mod1
add mod1 = Alt_L
add mod1 = Alt_R

keycode 117 = Hyper_R
add mod3 = Hyper_R

This .Xmodmap also configures the pull-down menu key as Hyper-R (mod3), which I use for window manager functions, thus avoiding conflicts between keys assigned to the window manager and applications.

Advanced Power Management

I haven't gotten this installed yet, either. It's supposed to help considerably with battery life.


Rick reports that he got sound working, using the SoundBlaster driver. He did have to change the IRQ to 5. He also reports that he was able to boot the RH 5.2 install CD by hitting F2 on boot and changing the boot device to CD-ROM. RH 5.2, SuSE 6.0, and Caldera worked for him, but not TurboLinux, which hung after the first line of the LDLINUX message.

Linux Laptop Home Page

For more information on setting up laptops with Linux, see the Linux Laptop Home Page.

Raph Levien <>