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Linux on an HP Omnibook 6100

In late February 2002, I installed Debian/GNU Linux on an HP Omnibook 6100 laptop, model F3851WT. As of this time, the box is somewhat bleeding edge and there are some tricky facets to the install. My box was supplied with a Windows 2000 "Professional" in an NTFS file system. X windows, APM, PCMCIA, the built-in Ethernet, and sound all work well. Only the internal modem is not supported under Linux.

Omnibook 6100 basic specs

The keyboard is full size and supports, simultaneously, a track point and a Synaptics touchpad (these work fine under Linux). Here is HP's spec sheet.

Linux installation

The machine arrived with three partitions: hda1 was small and is identified as an IBM Thinkpad hibernation, hda2 was about 15 GB with Windows 2000 in NTFS, and hda3 was about 3GB vfat with nothing on it. First order of business was to backup data supplied; for this I got out my trusty original Pockey drive, installed easily under 2K and backed up. The Pockey is not yet supported in Linux unless you buy a fresher one than mine.

Take a detour -- we have an NTFS to carve up!

After defragging from inside Windows I used ASP Linux from Linux ISO to shrink the Windows partition to 5 GB. Now remember, the 6100 is bleeding edge as of early 2002; with that in mind it is not too surprising that ASP never figured out the video, though it did install and run. ASP did not mess anything up, and installed its own boot loader with easy selection of windoze. Its purpose was to cut the pesky NTFS down to a mild roar. If you did not draw an NTFS, you could happily use FIPS supplied with most Linux distros or perhaps GNU Parted for the chore.

Now for one that works...

I used Progeny Linux. Like ASP, the installation went just fine but we did not get X out of the box. After installation, I fixed up /etc/apt/sources.list to point to current unstable and proceeded to upgrade (apt-get update ; apt-get upgrade). Progeny is Debian, and its purpose here was to get the installation done an in a maintainable state as a Debian distro. Progeny like some other modern distros installs grub boot loader instead of lilo and puts a nice editable menu file in /boot/grub. One advantage to grub is you do not need to re-run it when you add a kernel -- just go edit your menu.lst file. Update: It looks like Progeny ISO may be hard to find. If installing today I would just use the freshest Debian or Debian-based CD available. Libranet is nice. Other kinds of distros should work well too but they will not give you apt.

And one that you do not even install...

You can burn and load Knoppix Linux. 2.2 Beta -- This is very impressive, English or German. Knoppix booted, found the hardware, configured X and even the network via the built in Intel Nic using DHCP client. Hard to beat for a fast way to see and use Linux. Just power off when done with this because you cannot harm a file system that is on a CD.


X windows works flawlessly in 1024x768 resolution with 24-bit depth. Using dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xfree86, we find that ATI driver fails for want of a device -- doit with VESA and it will work. This is surely not accelerated as the chip is capable of, but it is viable. Make sure you fix up # Option "DPMS" in your XF86Config-4 file -- unless you remove or comment that out, your X session will get nuked after a few minutes. Here is my XF86Config file. I am using XFree86 xserver-xfree86 version 4.1.0-14 from Debian unstable. If you want a nice commercial X server you might head on over to XI Graphics where they offer an X server for this box.

15" screen models are spec'd for 1400 x 1050, and I have a report that this does indeed work with XFree86 4.2. As it turns out, the model tested here has a 14" screen and only does 1024 x 768 on screen. You can go on over to XFree86 Project and download binaries for version 4.2. I find they work and am able to add "Virtual 1152 864" in XF86Config-4 file to get a little panning so things like gnome panel and window manager bar can be panned out of the way so the full screen resolution is usable.

Advanced Power Management

I tried ACPI and APM while chasing the DPMS issue (see Graphics section above). Have not seen this box hybernate even with the supplied 2K setup that my IT department built but the sleep button does work (if APM is turned on in the kernel) and that is good enough for me. Current thinking is that we really want to see the file and not a partition. See also Crosbie's 6000 page referenced below for some suggestions on configuring APM.


The PCMCIA works. I have used Proxim Symphony wireless and Xircom ethernet cards, including hot-swapping, without problems. Expect that other cards will be fine.


The floppy drive works fine under Linux. It is hot swappable with DVD. The DVD drive works fine under Linux at least for reading standard CD-ROMs. Since I have never owned a DVD of any kind, I did not test. Update: In another 6100 was found a Matsushita SR-8175C drive (HP F2015A). This drive usually fails the Knoppix test. Placing the SDR-081 (HP F2015b) drive in same box booted Knoppix with no problem. Unknown whether the problem is with the Matsushita model or with the particular unit.


The ESS Maestro 3 sound card is supported by the Linux kernel and works fine with 2.4.17. Modprobe maestro3 to run it. One might also pursue alsa but I have not done so on this box. Midi files sound good via timidity.


The built-in Intel ethernet card is supported by the Linux 2.4.17 kernel. It did not seem to work with Progeny (2.4.3). Modprobe eepro100 and you are in business. Oops I spoke too soon. Get lots of errors wait_for_cmd_done timeout! -- checking google find lots of traffic on this subject and a pointer to e100-1.8.37.tar.gz. Compiles nicely and it works. Nice job by Intel setting it up to go put the module in the proper directory. Update to 2.4.18 and eepro100 renders the Intel module obsolete.


Untested here -- seems more trouble than it is worth. Identified as "3Com V.90 MPCI Modem 556B" See Arnold's 6000 page referenced below for more info. I have been carrying real PCMCIA modems around for years and they work. Expect no use for this 3Com chip. Another good reason to stick with PCMCIA modem is that you can fry those by plugging in ISDN in a hotel and do no harm to the box. After looking again, I am convinced my 6100 has this 3Com modem. If you have a box with a Lucent modem, you might try ltmodem . Thanks Supra Koma for this tip.

External ports

The external ports are

USB works and I have used an ACER CDRW and the Pockey USB drive. Linux can serve the Pockey to
VMware . With VMware 3.1, windoze98 is able to use the drive. Docking station should work, and I have no intention of using the the infrared port.


Harris prism product. You need linux-wlan-ng-0.1.13.tar.gz to play. See Linux-wlan project for details. Chip comes alive when you follow the directions and use prism2_pci module and the wlanctl-ng commands. 2003 update: Load up knoppix 3.2 -- uses orinoco module and connects easily.

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