Linux coming to a Visor near you?

In part 2 of Mike Cane's Internet report he speculated on the possibility of a Linux Springboard module for the Visor. Hawkins let slip that "a Springboard module can be used to override the PalmOS within the Visor". This goes along well with Linus Torvald's, the founding father of Linux, comments that the Handheld market will be able to use Linux in the not-too-distant future. What does all of this mean? Read this exclusive article on the possibility of alternative OS's on your Visor.

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Linux on Handspring

Cantherius @ 10/9/1999 12:11:19 PM #
I'm about to order a Handspring as soon as I can, and I think
that the idea of having linux on a handspring is a wonderful idea.
I am a hardcore Linux user, and PalmOS is great, but Linux
is even BETTER. Good luck to whoever might be producing
that module, and make sure to make it RIGHT.
RE: Linux on Handspring
Josh @ 12/17/1999 10:54:15 AM #
I want to see a Visor/PalmPilot web server!

Handheld Shell for Linux Module

@tomic212 @ 10/9/1999 12:15:36 PM #
Not only is the Springboards revolutionary in the "Palm Economy" but, that ability to over-ride the PalmOS is fantastic. Imagine a Linux "shell" specifically designed for a Visor. I hope RedHat or some other Linux distro sees this opportunity and makes a linux module asap.

hell yes; linux!, Bring on the BE

pshlortz @ 10/9/1999 1:41:34 PM #
linux on a handheld would be great... efficient OS, open sourced, and a large base of basic applications. Make a clean linux kernel, give it killer power management, and throw a simple gui and you could make a killing.

On the other hand; BEos could make a incredible handheld too. They have ATTRACTIVE INTERFACES down to an art. palmOS is fast and functional; but it could look so much better, with little to no performance cost.

I think if everyone gives the handheld OS a shot; and we have an enviroment which supports swapping our OS like candy, we could all prove the best for it. Maybe there should be a directive established to standardise the way these different OS's store there databases. That would allow us to go from OS to OS without the headaches we have as PC users.

What might be better still would be to make thin linux machine on a springboard. Give it a hardrrive cable. Give it a network card. and a power supply. make a tiny WEB SERVER. or File Server! and plug it into a visor to control it. Who says a springboard is supposed to be a slave to a visor; why not make the visor a slave to the springboard.

RE: hell yes; linux!, Bring on the BE
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/20/2002 4:42:05 PM #
This guy is a prophet.

Palm bought BE for that very reason.

I think it's a great idea

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/9/1999 6:57:46 PM #
Check out for work already done getting Linux to run on a Pilot.

I'd buy it tomorrow

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/1999 1:00:11 AM #
If I could get Linux on a springboard module, I'd buy it tomorrow. This would be a great option, in particular if the drivers/modules were optimized for the Visor hardware.
RE: I'd buy it tomorrow
ROB NEFF @ 6/7/2000 7:41:01 PM #
I'd buy it TODAY!

Linux on Palm... why?

PsychoPalm @ 10/10/1999 1:07:29 AM #
Okay, I'm into Linux. I'm into OS/2. I'm into basically anything non-Microsoft. I've used the Newton, I'm a long Palm user. But I utterly, completely, and totally fail to see any _tangible_ benefit to running Linux on a Palm? Frankly, it reeks of Windows CE. Is this thing a portable PC, or a digital organizer? Jeff Hawkins got it right the first time; be a PDA, not a PPC. PPC's are basically laptops, only smaller and more limited. If people wanted them, Palm would be long dead. We (people) don't want itty-bitty computers. We want human-sized computers with portable data-entry tools (ie. PDA's). Hence Palm's popularity. That is the _one_ thing that's truly right about Palm. And having Linux (which most mainstream users don't understand anyway) on a Palm is about the stupidest anti-The_Whole_Point_Of_Palm thing I've ever heard. Flame away.

RE: Linux on Palm... why?
pshlortz @ 10/10/1999 12:17:17 PM #
I understand your point completely. I do not want linux running on my Palm unless it does not interfere with my day to day useage.

this means either, a) it has a intelligent palm like gui built on top of it's kernel and has all the palm like data entry tools coded in the same smart way they are in palmOS (and a version of emacs would be incredible), or b) it is a springboard module i plug in for shits and giggles. It wouldn't even need to b that useful; just something for us geeks to play with. I for ome would rather hack around in linux then play a game :-)
RE: Linux on Palm... why?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/1999 5:39:19 PM #
Benifit right now? Not much that I can see, except for dorks like me who feel lost without grep and pipes and such ;-)
Benifit in a few years? Huge...

As the article points out, the palm os is great for what it does,
but only runs on certain limited hardware.
Linux can run on so many different cpu's, and anyone can adapt it for their own hardware.
Also, the linux kernel is such that you can make it as big or small as you want, depending on how much functionality you need.
I doubt you would run X on such a beast, at least right now, but it could be made quite useful with another small windowing system.
Also, I assume this would be sold as a data access unit or PPC with networking of some sort, along side of their orginizer Palm OS line.

RE: Linux on Palm... why?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/1999 5:51:42 PM #
This is Mike Cane ( -- yeah, I really should register at this site!). Wouldn't it be possible for people to write apps to run on Linux on a Springboard? I don't know much about Linux, but it seems to me with all of the development it has behind it, there's a possibility it could force WinCE out of the "pocket space." mc
RE: Linux on Palm... why? @ 10/10/1999 7:53:14 PM #
Linux is not necessarily a server/workstation OS. We're so used to seeing X-Windows and
command line interfaces for Linux that we often mistake them from the OS itself. X can be
replaced with a Palm OS-style interface, and the Plug-n-Play installation of the
Springboard makes it a very attractive option.

We need to reserve at least some skepticism for Handspring's licensing agreement with
Palm, especially since the company is so cagey on discussing the exact terms of the
agreement. Hypothetically, at least, Palm could withdraw its license overnight if
Handspring doesn't reciprocate by licensing Springboard technology to Palm (and
Handspring says that they currently have no plans to do so). Palm is already playing
the "OS card" by announcing a new upgrade via flash only, underscoring the Visor's lack
of flash upgradability. However well Handspring does with the Visor, it's still in a very
vulnerable position by licensing the soul of its product from a (potential) competitor.

Since Linux is covered under the terms of GNU's General Public License, anyone can modify
Linux for the Palm, get the source code, and have absolutely no ability to restrict others
from it -- which is more than can be said for the Palm OS, MacOS, BeOS, OS/2, Windows
or any other propriety operating system. This is not merely an academic point. Remember
the Newton?

RE: Linux on Palm... why?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/23/2000 11:24:28 PM #
Its funny that you use anything non-microsoft since OS/2 is a Microsoft product that was sold to IBM.

OS's not that important

mjoyce @ 10/10/1999 1:59:26 AM #
The OS on a handheld is not the be-all and end-all. It's all about what the device is useful for, and how well it fits its target uses.
At the moment, Palm OS devices are the best on the market: the OS is the fastest and most efficient, but the applications are streamlined, easy to use and well designed. It targets exactly what the vast majority of users want, in a simple, no-brainer format.

Where Windows CE has fallen down is that it doesn't recognise this, and tries to duplicate a PC. This is actually a good idea from a marketer's point of view, but lousy for the user.
EPOC is little more efficient, and has very powerful apps. One of its key advantages, especially to the mobile phone companies that have gotten into bed with Symbian, is that it is modular. These companies realise that the user interface is all the user will care about, and are happy to let someone else (Psion) take care of the backend.

I can see the how some people would get excited over having Linux on a Palm system, but I fail to really see the point. If you put the full complexity of a PC-targetted app onto a Palm form factor, you get a mess.
If you just want simple programs, why redesign the wheel?

RE: OS's not that important
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/1999 12:53:13 PM #
"Why redesign the wheel?"
Because sometimes the wheel falls off!

But what about plug and play SpringBoard?

FireMage @ 10/10/1999 3:03:42 AM #
Frankly, Handspring has made a major promise to the community with Springboard. Because of the way that the software for a Springboard is included on the module, even if it is a GPS or MP3 player or what have you, Springboard virtually _requires_ the Palm OS. So if Handspring is planning to release alternative OS handhelds, they'd better make _damn_ sure that these are Springboard compatible, meaning that alt OS devices can emulate the Palm OS. If Springboard turns out to be a one-trick poney for Visor only, and is abandoned as soon as the Palm OS is out dated, Handspring is going to have some very irate customers and vendors. If they tried to pull this, they'd have a hard time getting anyone to trust them again.

So it looks like Handspring is stuck with Palm OS and things that emulate it for the forseeable future.

RE: But what about plug and play SpringBoard?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/1999 5:48:53 PM #
This is Mike Cane ( How certain are you about "Springboard needing the PalmOS"? I'm not a programmer and I haven't yet read the Springboard developers docs, so you probably know both more and better than I do, but are you quite sure that the Springboard concept is tied that tightly to PalmOS? mc

First, lets be able to hotsync on Linux ..

Yursil @ 10/10/1999 9:38:58 PM #
I think it's an intriguing idea.. but, right now, a Visor owner cant even hotsync from linux.

Further, linux support for USB (which is what the Visor cradle uses) is non-existent. Therefore to be able to hotsync on linux would require a new kernel with the Visor specifically in mind.

Lets prioritize first!


RE: First, lets be able to hotsync on Linux ..
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 1:14:00 AM #
The Linux 2.4 kernel supports USB, and may be released by November. Even if it's seriously delayed, it's sure to be out by early 2000. So the only barrier to Linux support for the Visor is going to disappear soon enough.
RE: First, lets be able to hotsync on Linux ..
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 11:21:48 AM #
Umm.... Kernels 2.2.7 and above have support for USB keyboards and mice, and various other (specific) devices.

Also, Alan Cox has said thay 2.4 should be out as early as November.

Check out this link for more info on that:



RE: First, lets be able to hotsync on Linux ..
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/23/1999 6:10:50 PM #
You may not realize it but for an extra $20 there is a serial visor dock for the PC. By default the Visor comes with a USB cradle but you can order a serial cable Cradle at the same time. Now I am not sure wheather the linux pilot docking mechanisms can use the visor's dock but I think that the cabling is similar and since the OS is the same I would gamble that it works!!

New OS?

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/1999 11:21:58 PM #
Ok, but it should be able to run PalmOS software.
RE: New OS?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 2:07:39 PM #
Why not run the palm os emulator on linux,
on a handspring :-)

Linux On Visor

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 4:13:23 AM #
It is so great to hear such a direction. I just wonder when it is available

Linux on a Visor

ctrose @ 10/11/1999 9:01:24 AM #
There already is a version of Linux that will run on an 8MB palm. How difficult would it be to recompile the kernel for a Visor?
RE: Linux on a Visor
daniel @ 11/4/1999 4:05:27 PM #
great but where is this kernel to download ???

Please send this to me

linux on my Visor? @ 10/11/1999 9:59:33 AM #
Sweet, gimme.

Linux on a Visor

Steve Cooper @ 10/11/1999 12:35:23 PM #
I see no benefit. Linux would bring its own desktop legacy down to a PDA, much like Windows CE. Linux is a UNIX clone, and UNIX designers never even thought about handheld computers.

What does Linux bring to the table? Certainly not a large PDA application base or PDA-scale efficiency. Keep it clean and simple!

RE: Linux on a Visor
Jan @ 10/12/1999 9:39:23 PM #
Your question : what does Linux bring to the table ?

The answer: The power to get done anything that
people seem fit to do.

This is unlike Palm OS and other handheld OSes,
which have limited number of ports and HW platforms,
and need licences, which is the first and final stop
sign for free people who want to development for
themselves and for the common good.


Linux on Visor

Ron Roszkiewicz @ 10/11/1999 1:04:41 PM #
If Linux is made available most of the world will need RedGlove(as in Hat) support to use it. Keep it simple and keep it open.

Alt OS on Palm means no extensibiliy!

Gabriel Jeffrey @ 10/11/1999 12:58:03 PM #
I'm a Palm III oner and a long-time BeOS user. I just ordered a Visor Deluxe. You are all overlooking the logistics of the issue. Any alternate OS would have to run off of a Springboard module or somehow be loaded in to RAM as a patch to the PalmOS. If it runs via Springboard, it means no Springboard modules while running the Alt OS. Visors don't have Flash RAM which means that replacing the OS is out of the question. Also, as sad as it is, virtually no software for either BeOS or Linux is structured to support _every_ architecture. It would be almost useless to run any of the existing apps. Sad...but true.
RE: Alt OS on Palm means no extensibiliy!
Mike Cane @ 10/11/1999 2:39:24 PM #
I would envision any alternate OS Springboard to contain its own RAM for OS-specific apps/files.

As for not being able to use a Springboard in the OS-occupied slot... there was a rumor that someone wanted to create a "Y" connector so that two SBoards could be dropped into the one slot. I don't know if that is technically possible, but it sure would make for a strange-looking Visor! mc (

Linux on Visor?

Will Smith @ 10/11/1999 1:22:09 PM #
WOW! wouldn't THAT be awesome!?!

so far, i think the PalmOS-powered devices are great. i went and bought a IIIx before i knew that Handspring even existed. had i known, i would have waited for the Visor and ordered one of THOSE.... hmmmm....

i'm impressed with what i've heard about the Visor so far, and i've been recommending it to everyone i know.

Linux on a Visor... Maybe.

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 3:07:09 PM #
What you have to ask yourself is why you would like
to have linux on a device; if it is only to the same
thing palmOs is already doing, it is probably not
worth it; PalmOS is very well designed, usabilitywise.

If, on the other hand, you want linux to be able to run
all kinds of linux software (which I do), then you really
need to address the need for a keyboard of some kind,
working with many applications simply demand a quicker
way to enter data than handwriting can accomplish (and
I do want to use a real shell, which is a pain with hand-
writing). Give me a way to connect a one-hand keyboarsd
and I'll be happy.

RE: Linux on a Visor... Maybe.
Cicatrix @ 12/1/1999 9:44:07 PM #
There is a utility called the "happy hacking cradle" (from the same folks who created the "happy hacking keyboard") that allows you to type directly into your palm.

The cradle has an interface for any ps/2 style keyboard, and your palm obviously sits in the cradle.

check it out at:

--Cicatrix" CLASS=NEWS>


BeOS makes more sense!

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 3:27:46 PM #
BeOS makes more sense than Linux on the Visor. Linux is complex enough for the average user. The only advantage that Linux brings is that it is open source. I don't think that most users care about this. BeOS is just as powerful as Linux, plus it is 10x easier to use. Not to mention it doesn't contain the legacy baggage.

I would by a Linux Visor in a second

Tim @ 10/11/1999 3:47:45 PM #
Although I am a current user of a Palm III I would have no qualms whatsoever about jumping ship onto the Handspring Linux Palm device bandwagon. No thanks on the BeOS or Apple oferings. Not interested. I have seen the future and the future is free OS's.
RE: I would by a Linux Visor in a second
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/11/1999 4:00:39 PM #
BeOS IS FREE as of their next release.
Noah Brunn @ 3/14/2000 12:45:26 PM #
Get with the program.
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