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PSION Resurrected By Linux 91

razzer writes: "The team have worked magic with getting Linux to squeeze into its new home of portable computers. Thanks to the falling prices in hardware the PSION 5mx is the most powerful, cheapest and smallest way to carry your best friend Tux in your pocket. Something no geek should leave home without. But now its gone one step further, check out which is Tader's site. You really need to see these PicoGUI ( ) screenshots. The best one has got to be this one which shows the oustandingly attractive aqua theme."
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PSION Resurrected By Linux

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  • hmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Transient0 ( 175617 )
    the 'attractive aqua theme' looks pretty grey to me...
  • Aqua theme (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Lewisham ( 239493 )
    *Now* you've gone and done it. I'm sure Apple's lawyers are writing up the cease-and-desist order as we speak on the Aqua theme. D'oh :)
  • by Yarn ( 75 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:27AM (#2949904) Homepage
    but I decided I couldn't live without the functions the Symbian Epoc OS provides. Like the agenda, contacts, opera etc.

    As I can get ssh (via java) and perl installed *anyway* running Linux on my PDA with it's tiny keyboard gives me no real benefit. Of course, I'll back up and do it some day, probably when I upgrade my PDA.

    Besides, the 5MX isn't the smallest linux PDA, the Revo is smaller and also capable of running psion linux.
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saqmaster ( 522261 )
    "which shows the oustandingly attractive aqua theme."

    Forgive me for being stupid, but why in all reality would anyone be too fussed about 'themes' on a Psion 5mx? The original EPOC GUI looked alright and had good support.

    I had an old Psion 3 few years back running some hacked up debian rom and it worked, could establish serial ppp connections, even ran an eggdrop from it, but it was just a bit of fun (Yeah, don't try and compile _anything_ on a Psion unless you want to wait a long time).

    I forget who it was now, but I remember a while back some articles about another PDA manufacturer was going to use/was using a Linux based o/s for it.. Not really seen much come of it yet..

    There are lots of things to take into account.. like Synchronisation. What exactly would you sync up between a Linux PDA and desktop machine? It's not like you've got Outlook running or anything, and i've not seen any piece of 'groupware' on a Linux platform that even contemplated supporting PDA integration/sync'ing.. (Not that i've looked too hard)..

    I think the scope here is much wider than just having a PDA running Linux, it requires just as much or more effort from the 'desktop' developers or these PDA's will be useless..
    • StarOffice 5.2 had palm pilot syncing.
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Informative)

      Evolution will sync to a palm. Does anyone know if it will sync to a linux PDA?
      • The answer is a definate maybe. The problem with Linux PDAs is that they all use their own data format, and more often than not, not follow any standard. What a Linux PDA lacks (and something I'm putting into my PDA environment, DynaPad []) is a data-store like that of the Newton. On the current generation of Linux PDAs, most syncing seems to be achieved by coping TXT or XML files, or in some cases, having a sync app. However, this sync app doesn't know about new databases and records, other than those it's been explicitly told about- and this is more often than not limited to Contacts and Dates. It's really quite sad.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

      by micahjd ( 54824 )
      Well, there is a larger reason behind themes... I explain this some on, but the themes in PicoGUI are mostly for defining the look completely separately from the application or the GUI code itself.

      As for the synchronization, PIM, etc. to go along with a Linux PDA, that's where there are lots of options. Microwindows, X, Qt/Embedded.. and PicoGUI. To me, the best reason to run Linux on a handheld is to take advantage of cross-platform applications. Especially in a GUI designed for scalability, you should be able to run the same app (with a recompile if it's in a compiled language of course) on a Helio, VR3, Psion, Zaurus, or a laptop.
  • pretty slick (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:28AM (#2949908) Homepage
    I have to admit, seeing X run on a screen like that warms my heart in a certain way on a cold canadian morning such as this. This is an interesting counterpoint to the previous headline re: PS2-Linux.

    BAD: big guy making linux run on his own hardware

    GOOD: little guy making linux run on the big guy's hardware.

    Disclaimer: I'm not really being cynical here, i understand the concerns of limiting hardware access and draconian copy-protection, it's just interesting.
    • * PicoGUI isn't X, or X compatible. It's a completely new GUI framework. It's design goal is not compatibility with other GUIs, but to explore a unique architecture that especially benefits handheld computers and other embedded systems

      So, this isn't really X.

      It is Linux though, which is quite nice too.

      • Actually, there's at least one screenshot of X on Tader's site. But PicoGUI is not X, although it does run under X (in at least three different ways that I know of).
  • I wonder who the other user was when `uptime` was executed in the Aqua screenshot.
  • by rixster ( 249481 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:36AM (#2949933) Journal
    My personal experience with Psion is that had a great history of leading edge technology PDA's that worked, but when I jumped on the bandwagon with a netbook (or notbook - see later), I was less than impressed with their promises of continued development
    The netbook is an awesome machine - it still gets 'oohs' and 'aahs' from co-workers who haven't seen it. It's got a 640x480 touchscreen screen with full keyboard in a clamshell type design. I've got the 64Mb version with a 340Mb microdrive for any rubbish that I need. Here are the things that I absolutely love about it :
    * Instant on - i.e. within a second. Beats the hell out of booting a laptop, even from sleep mode.
    * The bundled apps, although minimal, are perfectly functional. Wanna write a doc, do a spreadsheet, read / write email ? Absolutely no problem
    * It stops me tinkering. It just does the job
    * 6 hour battery life. speaks for itself.
    The things I despise :
    * It's called a netbook. It's networking drivers are still 0.1, support the barest minimum of devices and frequently crash. How can you call something a netbook if it doesn't network ???!!!
    * It's TCP/IP over the Irda is shockingly bad. Probably goes back to comment 1.
    * Minimal, some say none, Mac support. Oh well.
    * Lastly, FORGET about any further development about Epoc 6. Oh yeah I was an idiot to believe the rumours about that !!

    To have a usable *nix ported to a netbook would be an absolute godsend. I could code here, code there, email, etc etc. Man I would *pay* (and I mean pay) at least 100 GBP to get my netbook running a reasonable X with just the simplest apps working.
    Anyway, please keep up the great work linux -> psion porters. PLEASE !!
    • QNX? (Score:2, Interesting)

      Ask QSSL about a QNX port, they're already doing one for the Compaq iPaq PDA.
    • I think you'll find that the kernel already works on the Netbook. In fact there is a shot at the psilinux site.

      The speed at which things seem to be developing is really exciting, and so i wouldnt be surprised if there was a working X server before long.

      Just before Xmas there was no kernel or anything for the Revo, and now I have it booting and running no problem....

      just give it some time :)
    • Heh. The things you love about your netBook seem to be found also in the iBook. In OS X, coming back on from sleep takes a second. I'm not sure how it does it, but I kid you not. Same with the bundled office apps. Tinkering? Well, this is a Mac- the idea is that you don't *have* to tinker. And yes, 5-6 hours of battery life.
    • (Suggesting something thats not Linux, this will kill my Karma)

      Have you seen/considered SavaJE [], a Java2SE OS, while it's not X, I've seen X for Java. It makes me wayy to tempted to nip into the local CashConverters and pick up a netBook...

      mlk (happy Revo owner)
    • * Lastly, FORGET about any further development about Epoc 6. Oh yeah I was an idiot to believe the rumours about that !!

      Huh? Symbian [] is very much alive and kicking, releasing new versions of Epoc (yeah, 6.0, 6.1 etc) when they're ready - and they're used in products like Ericsson R380, Nokia 9210 and the upcoming Nokia 7650 as a few examples.

      You _do_ know that Symbian was created from Psion Software, and that Ericsson, Nokia, Psion, Panasonic and Motorola are co-owners, right? (Now add SonyEricsson to that)

  • Psion Range (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:36AM (#2949935)
    It might be worth pointing out that the colour screen shots are from the Netbook and Psion 7 - mini-notebook form factor Psions, while the 5 and 5mx are palmtop clamshell style organisers with mono (16 greyscale) screens.

    Having said that, the Aqua theme does look tasty enough to warrant finding a Netbook going cheap. From experience with CE professional laptops, I can say that a laptop form factor with no HDD and 'instant on' is a lot more useable than a full scale notebook by far. Add Linux? Yum!

  • Falling prices? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I don't know what the price should be, but the cheapest 5mx on is $499. The new Zaurus Linux PDA is $399.
  • This guy's right. If you're into buying a PDA, don't forget to check into all those Psion Sales going on just now. They're dirt cheap and even if you don't wanna bother sqeezing Linux on them, EPOC is a very good and solid PDA-OS.
    • Absolutely. I stumped up the cash from for a Revo, which fell over half it's price down to £100 (164 Euros or $142). Bargin.

      It's also a cut being reflected on other sites, which leads me to believe it's come from Psion itself. It would make sense: their share price along with their market share is taking a bashing and the best way to get sales is to undercut even the unuseable end of the Palm range.
    • by Pembers ( 250842 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @11:32AM (#2950308) Homepage

      If you're wondering why Psions are so cheap nowadays, it's mostly because Psion have stopped making them. The reasons are complicated, but I suspect it comes down to a form of the British disease: we invented many things that the modern world takes for granted, but we're hopeless at making money out of them.

      I agree that the OS is rock-solid. I've owned three Psions in the last 4 1/2 years, and have had exactly one crash in that time. This resulted when I let my girlfriend's eight-year-old nephew play with the machine, a testing method I recommend to anyone who thinks they write stable code ;-)

      I wouldn't swap my 5mx for any variety of WinCE, nor for a Palm. Many people don't realise that Psions are true handheld computers, whereas most PDAs are more like detachable peripherals for a desktop machine. Many Psion users don't even own a desktop.

      The thing that drew me to Psion in the first place (apart from patriotism) was their excellent keyboards. It saddens me that most newer PDAs have, at best, sorry excuses for keyboards. I can type a lot faster than I can write with a pen, especially on a slippery surface like an LCD. Perhaps I'm atypical, but I enter a lot of text while I'm on the move. The wordprocessor is the most-used application on my Psion, followed by Contacts. I hardly use the Agenda on it. My favourite program for it, though, has to be the ZX Spectrum emulator that actually runs faster than the original on some games. So I suppose I don't fit too well into the target market for all these new Linux-based PDAs (when one actually appears on the shelves), because I don't need to be told minute-by-minute where I'm supposed to be, nor do I want to surf the web on a 2-inch screen or listen to the same 20 MP3s while I go there.

      Damn... I'm getting nostalgic for a machine that isn't even officially dead yet. Psion have said they'll support them for the next couple of years. I take my hat off to these guys for the cool hack, but I think we won't see the true utility of Linux on a 5mx until Psion's support ceases.

      • The reasons are complicated, but I suspect it comes down to a form of the British disease

        IMHO - Psion dropped the ball when they tried to grab market share by making the money losing Revo. Most Psion users (like me) diden't care what the things cost and would glady have paid the high costs of a product that allowed Psion to make a profit. Simply put - Psion should have played to their strengths: wonderfully built little computers. Palm already had the cheap little organiser market locked up.
      • Yeah for "lets ignore the US market" :(

        mlk, a happy Revo user, that ill not move on till there is a nice sized keyboard device...
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @11:33AM (#2950316) Homepage
      Every place I checked the Psion 5mx was pricey.
      Sales? where? I dont call pricing it the same as the new Sharp Zaurus as on sale.

      A search on ebay for used ones the average price is $160.00

      If there are great sales on these items post a link to where, as 5 different E-tailers list them as really really pricey.
  • 3G cell phones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by interiot ( 50685 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:49AM (#2949968) Homepage
    Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson, and others will be basing some of their new 3G phones off of a psion-derivative [], Symbian OS []. Hopefully this will result in a consistent API that stands a fighting chance against Windows CE in the cell-phone market.
    • Personally im supremely confident that they already have domination over the cell-phone markets, bot OS and phone, and Nokia will be the next big player on the PDA-markets (are already actually) with their internet-enabled communicators etc.
      There is no chance in hell that Windows CE will ever become a bigger player on Cell-phones imo. It will also become smaller on the PDA front when Nokia whips up more Phone/PDA's that are of superior quality.
  • Dot CX (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2002 @09:57AM (#2949987)
    Yeah, we're all gonna click on some wierd dot CX link. Yeah right...
  • I bought a Psion Revo Plus last September. I managed to break it, and for the last three months have ben trying to get it repaired. Emails to Psion's technical support section, then webmaster, etc., just get ignored. They seem to have nothing but contempt for their customers.

    Nice hardware, shame about the company.
  • Apple. (Score:3, Funny)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @10:04AM (#2950015) Homepage
    the oustandingly attractive aqua theme.

    Welcome to Lawsuit County, population: You.

  • Eventually these old Psion devices are going to get completely outdated, but what about the new ones by Nokia?

    How about Linux on the 9200 series? Surely half the work has been done if its already been ported to a 5mx...
  • by lala ( 28594 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @10:47AM (#2950140) Homepage
    Is that a penguin in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
    (sorry, couldn't resist this awful joke.)
  • PicoGUI help wanted (Score:5, Interesting)

    by micahjd ( 54824 ) <> on Monday February 04, 2002 @10:53AM (#2950157) Homepage
    PicoGUI already runs on several platforms, including the Agenda VR3 [], the VTech Helio [], TuxScreen [], uCsimm [], and now the Psion.

    PicoGUI's still in need of developers, authors, and artists. We need developers to write PicoGUI applications and help debug/extend/port pgserver. We need authors to write more documentation. We could even use some artists (preferably with some programming knowledge) to make some more themes. If you're interested in helping, join the pgui-devel mailing list or stop by the #picogui IRC channel on

    • Micah knows what he is doing. PicoGUI is quite rad, and I encourage you to check it out if you're looking for an intelligent GUI system. Damn fast on something like the Helio, too. (rev, occasionally on #picogui)
  • by harkal ( 105987 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @11:18AM (#2950245) Homepage
    Linux was ported long time ago to the old PSION Series 3, throught it's ELKS [] little brother. Look at this site [] for more info.
  • But am I the only one that thinks the screenshots look like the hell. That isn't a UI, its a hackery of widgets tossed and turned until something popped out.
    • Heh (Score:1, Troll)

      That isn't a UI, its a hackery of widgets tossed and turned until something popped out.

      You mean it looks like X?


      Don't worry, it's prolly just in "X11 emulation mode".

      C-X C-S
  • I got PsiLinux's setup to boot on my Diamond Mako (just a USA-ized version of the Psion Revo), but unfortunately, it won't actually install as it wants a physical drive to install to. The Revos don't have the ability to use Flash media like the other (i.e. Series 5) machines do. Does anybody know of a way to get a decent Linux setup running on the Revo?
  • by yani ( 50270 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @12:05PM (#2950437)
    This is great, and I was really into linux on the psion when my screen flexi-cable gave out. And no this is not unusual, it is a design defect [] and catches all psion 5/5mx's eventually. want to know the really sad part? Psion insists on replacing the whole screen for $250.

    If your thinking of buying a psion 5/5mx just be aware that it dosn't last very long, there are planty of other faults, don't get me wrong I loved the machine and psion, I owned a psion 3a before it, but I finally just got fed up with Psion's consistantly bad reliability.

    • I got my 8meg Revo in November 2000, and in the space of six months it developed power problems twice! The second time I should have gotten my money back and bought and iPaq to run QNX on :-|
  • Ressurected by Linux? What, are Psion gonna make more PDAs because they can run Linux?
  • Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these babies?

    Sorry.... it had to be done.

  • by SKicker ( 27704 ) on Monday February 04, 2002 @02:57PM (#2951398)
    ive been tinkering with this for a little while. Its a great machine.

    Heres what works:

    - infrared, just like a serial infrared on your desktop! (irattach and away you go).
    - serial (connect it to your desktop with pppd)
    - framebuffer console (640x240 4bpp)
    - power on and off (deep sleeps the psion)
    - backlight
    - install a full debain-arm distro! (basically anything console that works on your desktop will work on the psion at the moment)
    - great for running your favourite editor, irc, lynx etc.

    Heres what dont work:

    - X works but without keyboard or touchpanel support yet.
    - sound (apparently it should be easy to write a driver but noone has got round to it yet)
    - contrast controls
    - uses more power than EPOC (even when 'off') but probably not huge difference in battery life.

    Heres some problems with it:

    - cant use IBM microdrives, only compact flash
    - only 16meg memory, and swap on a flash card isnt a good idea (flash has a limited number of write cycles)
    - a bit slow (36Mhz, emulated FPU)
    - no specific distro for it yet (ie nothing like familiar for the ipaq, although most of familiar will run on it cos they are both ARM machines).

    Wouldnt it be great if someone managed to buy the rights to build these machines again running linux instead of EPOC? I recommend snapping up a cheap second hand one while your still can.
  • Any day I'm expecting my jornada 720 back with no trace of wince on it ;)

    It will have the crl bootloader + familiar distro.

    Details will follow.
    Anticipation...anticipation, it's making me wait!

  • I recently bought a Diamond Mako for $80, from Staples and am very pleased with it. Some people reading this may be interested to know that you can get a refurbished mako for $80 a Pretty much an unbeatable price compared to a $400 zarus or the yopy. Hopefully there will soon be a linux distribution for the revo as well.
  • Ack, suppose it's far too late to be asking this now, but...

    Anyone have a mirror for the Series 5 version? The FTP site ( seems to be dead or Slashdotted or whatever.


God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein