Analysts all over the net(TamsPalm included) were buzzing about the “Linux for Palm OS PDA” ports at and other sites. Now, I decided to do the practical test on a Palm Tungsten T3 – let’s see how the free OS looks currently.

First of all. w00t! to the developers! I would have never managed to create something that would have managed to boot up a machine as complex as a Tungsten T3 – what they accomplished without any help from Palm is incredible! However, for the rest of the review, I’ll compare Linux to Palm OS fairly and ask for your understanding that Linux will not get baby treatment…

Just to put that clear – THIS IS NOT ALP! This is a Linux port by indie developers who managed to “hack” themselves into the Palm OS handheld’s hardware in their spare time, without support from Palm Inc!

Getting Linux to run was simpler than before – now, there is no more need for a web server and other thingies. All you need to do is sync Garux(the Linux bootloader for Palm OS) to your PDA and install two files(about 15 Megabytes) to your SD card. The files needed are available from SourceForge and hackndev; I used the following files:

Put into /Palm/Launcher:

Put into /linux2ram:

A card access tool like Softick Card Export can be very helpful if you don’t have a dedicated card reader. After that, you can start Garux from your memory card. The program will show you a list of options, I fared pretty well with the defaults altough our local Linux Nut Alexander Panek changed the init parameter to /linux2ram once or twice. Clicking Start Linux will wipe the Palm OS from your RAM, the only way to get it back is a hard reset.

After a few seconds, Garux will ask you to choose your boot source. Press the To Do button and afterwards the Calendar button to boot from SD card:
whatnow Linux for Palm Tungsten T3   review
In most cases(95% of the time on my T3 with a 1GB HP SD card), the bootloader will show error messages like the ones below and will die – in that case, hardreset, change the initrd parameter and try again. It will eventually work(a full battery increases your odds):
dead Linux for Palm Tungsten T3   review
If the bootup process works(congratz, you are lucky), GPE will ask you for a few configuration settings like default user name. Interestingly, the calibration uses 4 points instead of the two the Palm OS uses:
1 Linux for Palm Tungsten T3   review 2 Linux for Palm Tungsten T3   review 3 Linux for Palm Tungsten T3   review

After completing all the steps, GPE will be ready to “run”. OK, Bluetooth, Sound, the slider, charging LED, battery status indicator and the power off button aren’t supported yet; but the touchscreen and memory subsystems are no problem. This 3gp video shows GPE in ‘action’.

The GPE system is rather similar to the Palm OS-this 3GP video shows the launcher and “task bar” in action. The status bar at the bottom of the screen is miore feature-rich than the Palm OS one, you can add loads of so-called Panels to show different aspects of the system.

However, GPE is mind-boggingly slow when launching applications. My old vintage Palm IIIc beats the Tungsten T3 by far, and launching a few apps at the same time(like 10 or so) totally kills the operating system. This 3gp video shows a little “speed benchmark”.

Overall, kudos to the Hackndev folks for creating a port of Linux that runs on the T3. Indeed, applications start and the touchscreen works – but that is about it. The operating system gets mind bogglingly slow when you launch more than one application at the same time and is generally rather slow. The lack of many features and the difficulties at powerup just add to the picture: a great product with loads of future potential, but it can’t compete with the Palm OS yet!

P.s. If soneone has an email address of the developer, please give it to me(post it here). I really really want to talk to him to explain the review more and give him my “bug list”.

Related posts:

  1. Linux for Palm OS handhelds
  2. Linux for Palm OS
  3. T|T3 Linux now supports SD cards
  4. Palm Linux development finished soon?
  5. GPE/Linux on a Tungsten C

22 Responses to “Linux for Palm Tungsten T3 – review”

  1. Hi Tam,

    You missed mentioning the biggest show stopper of them all – there’s no sleep/resume support, yet. ;-) I’m suprised about the speed though, I figured running off a RAM disk would fix most of GPE’s speed issues. Maybe OPIE will fare better on the T3 – it’s not too bad running off the LifeDrive’s HDD, but maybe that’s just because I’m used to the speed of PalmOS on the LifeDrive. ;-)

    Email addresses for most of the Hack&Dev developers are available on the Sourceforge project members list. Vladimir (Farcaller) and Magon are the main T3 developers.

  2. Hi Alex,

    and the power off button aren’t supported yet;

    IMHO, I mentioned that =). Actually, for me, the lack of a poweroff capability is not really iumportant, I would have left the machine running all the timer(and plugged in most of the time).

    The main problem that I see with the Tungsten T3 is running off SD card; the T3 has a really really slow SD card subsystem! But more on that in an other article!

    As for the email adresses, why not put them visibly on ther front page so that everyone can contact you?

    Best regards and thanks for talking back
    Tam Hanna

  3. Does this work on a Tungsten T2 or a Treo 650?

  4. Hi Marc,
    as far as I know, yes there are versions for both of these devices. Please check it out at!

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  5. I think Tam means ;)
    Although Hackaday may have something about this as well; I wouldn’t be suprised.

  6. Hi,
    yeah, Hackndev…so sorry!

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  7. I tried to get this to boot a few days ago on my t|x, sadly it wouldn’t. I look forward to them getting off the ground, and getting some wireless drivers, air snort on a t|x…..

  8. Hi,
    where did it hang while booting?

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  9. Can this be done in a treo 600/650 or in a tungsten e??

  10. Hi Ortonauta,
    Treo 650 and Tungsten E yes afaik!

    As for the link, cool!

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  11. Whats the root password? I’ve tried all the usuals anf nothing works. does anyone know what it is?

  12. Hi Shane,
    no idea, sorry.

    What about asking in the forum?

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  13. [...] Un curioso efecto secundario del trabajo que los chicos de Hackndev están llevando a cabo para instalar Linux en una Tungsten T3, fue el descubrimiento de una funciolnalidad no documentada: el LED que tiene en un lateral, realmente es un LED multicolor. Sin embargo, esto nunca se supo ya que ni PalmOS ni ningún programa hacían uso de esta funcionalidad… hasta ahora. [...]

  14. What exactly did you put for initrd value and how did you come up with this value :-)

  15. Hi,

    I changed no value…

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  16. Oh, it’s just that you wrote:

    In most cases(95% of the time on my T3 with a 1GB HP SD card), the bootloader will show error messages like the ones below and will die – in that case, hardreset, change the initrd parameter and try again. It will eventually work(a full battery increases your odds):

    So how did you get it to work, just rebooted over and over?


  17. Hi,
    exactly – playing around and having luck…

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  18. New version out for LiveDrive and works even better than prior version.

  19. hey I am having a prob booting linux on my palm. it keeps saying “press enter to activate this console” what does this mean and what do i do????

  20. Sorry about digging up this old post, but could you post the files for the t3?

  21. Hi,
    first of all, thanks for talking back.

    Sadly, I no longer have these files on hand!

    All the best

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