Everex Expressnote 586                                                               Spring 1999

Chronicles of purchasing a used Everex Expressnote 586 and getting the idea of installing Linux as its new OS.

Having no manual I first scoured the net.
Everex home base at http://www.everex.com lists an Expressnote 1400 and several useful drivers reside here.

Other than these drivers I have found no other information on this model.

I have discovered several things though.

It seems that these notepads were manufactured by FICA http://www.fica.com.
Fica, it appears, manufactured quite a range of laptops which were repackaged and sold under other names.

These models, though a little later than the Expressnote 586 are apparently rebadged FICA notepads:

LEO DESIGNote 3500 Series
Exerex ExpressNote Series
NEC PC9800 Series
TI Extensa 500 Series

http://www.ct.monash.edu.au/~pstanski/designote/index.html has more notes on this.

I had searched Altavista, Dejanews, the Everex web site, even the local Everex service contact could not tell me anything about the machine. My hope was to install Linux on this laptop. The Linux web site did not list the computer either.

The machine was actually running Windows 95 quite comfortably though it did crash a few times. I put this toward the PHdisk partition problem. The system uses PhoenixMISER (tm) to store an image of the work that is being done on the machine.
When the power management kicks in a snapshot is taken and saved to a partition on the hard drive. (can also be RAM, or RAM is used if the partition is faulty or to small) The partition has to be larger than the amount of RAM in the machine. A problem usually occurs when RAM is upgraded. The partition becomes useless and  the image is held in RAM!!!

Becoming somewhat disillusioned with the virtual non-existence of information about the Expressnote 586 there was only one thing left to do:


Arrrrhhhh.....that felt better.

I then created the PHdisk partition using the phdisk utility I downloaded from everex site.
I have no idea how this partition will work if at all with Linux.

Machine confirmed I had 540 meg free

Now...I was gonna try and install linux. (Note: I have never installed linux before)

The machine has no CD-ROM so the slackware distribution as recommended by my good man Pete.
Slackware 3.9 is what I downloaded:

It is essential to download the files in binary mode not ASCII!!
Also don't use a browser but an FTP program...cuteFTP etc
Files I downloaded (using another Windows machine:)

bootdisk/ bareapm.i file to use as a bootdisk
rootdsk/ color.gz to use as the rootdisk (setup prog)

To create the 2 disks I used the RAWRITE.EXE file as follows:

C:\>RAWRITE bareipm.i a:
C:\>RAWRITE color.gz a:

I then also downloaded the A set of disk files and the N set (for network support)

Boot the machine using bareapc.i boot disk OK

Inserted color.gz rootdisk when prompted. OK

At the prompt I typed in cfdisk
and then created a partition of 48 meg (double my system RAM and I am guessing here)
For type I chose 82 (Linux swap)    This was hda1

I then created another partition of the remaining space for linux (I wasn't going to bother with seperate partitions for /home etc.
Format type was 83 (Linux)  This was hda2

cfdisk also showed I has an unknown 25.6 meg partition. This is the everex PHdisk partition. This was hda4

I then rebooted the system reboot (need to insert the linux boot disk (bareapm.i) first.)
Then inserted the root disk and typed setup at the prompt.

The setup program allows you to "mount" the partitions. Firts mount the swap partition and then the target partition.
I formatted the partitions again allowing the program to slow check for bad blocks. For my hd2a partition I formatted at 1 inode per 2048 bytes. (Guessing again)

Unfortunately the program found errors......

This time I ran fast format with the default 4096 bytes. (Shutting my eyes away from danger)

Then I started feeding it the A disk series. (caution...a bad disk means start again!!!)
I actually used the same disk and moved it back and forth.

A brilliant thing happened. After installing all of the A series disks and a couple of the n series
disks I had a break for dinner. I got back in and the Everex had completly shutdown! I did have
a few power management settings enabled in the BIOS but I had no idea that it it would shut down completly! I thought that the last hour and some of adding floppy disks was all wasted and that I wold have to start from scratch. I power up the machine and, low and behold, the PhoenixMISER (tm) mangager pops up and loads all of the previous session into RAM and I continue with the install!

Though the following disk n3 i think may have errored?

Caution disk n11 is over sized and can't be used as a floppy installation.
You have to copy the install.end file of it onto the previous disk!!!!
(You don't get to know this until after you have installed the previous disk! Doh)

After the last disk the configuration process begins; all quite self explanatory.
I chose to skip the LILO installation until later (liloconfig command)

Reboot the system

Missing operating system.
Chucked in the new lilo boot disk I had created in the config stage.
It takes forever to boot. (as the install prog said this option would)

But it does boot and Linux is running on the laptop.
No X windows, no modem, no network yet.....that will be for tomorrow.

To config lilo to boot Linux from the harddrive i did this:

Chose advanced config
begin (no extra commands)
boot to the first OS no wait.
/dev/hda2 (My big linux root partition which I had made bootable when I created it)

Didn't work....lilo just hangs and no lilo.conf file created.

To get lilo to work I had to run QuickInst
This is in /usr/doc/lilo and it worked. I am booting from the larger hda2 and not MBR

Next night

I noticed today when I issued the command top that the swap partition I had created wasn't being used.The fix for this was to edit the fstab file that is in etc

I added the line

/dev/hda1   swap  swap defaults

to the beginning of the file and this fixed it.

Also figured that I needed to mount the floppy drive. I tried mount floppy but this failed.
Works like this:

Log in as root

mkdir /floppy
vi /etc/fstab
add the line: /dev/fd0   /floppy   vfat   user,noauto,rw   0 0

I still needed to get more resources into the linux setup i.e. Perl, netscape, ome sound utilities and perhaps Xwindows for kicks.
The network setup (I had borrowed a network PCMCIA card) on second thoughts looked to difficult for the minute (I had some Perl work and a few other things I wanted to test in the box) so I figured I would connect a modem to the serial port and download the files and all the help I needed onto the machine via www.

To get the modem working I ran the pppsetup program this time telling it that my modem was on com1
I struggled with both Minicom and pppsetup  but managed to get minicom to dial in
to my ISP....this actually took a while to get happening ...er um...only bout ten hours! no kidding.

With my server:

resolv.conf looks like this:

search labyrinth.net.au

/etc/ppp/options looks like this:

# General configuration options for PPPD:

asyncmap 0

rc.inet1 basically looks like this:

#! /bin/sh
# rc.inet1      This shell script boots up the base INET system.
# Version:      @(#)/etc/rc.d/rc.inet1  1.01    05/27/93


# Attach the loopback device.
/sbin/ifconfig lo
/sbin/route add

To dial in (this might be different for other servers)

First type in  minicom -s to set it up or configure

And then later just minicom

After Modem string is set, hit enter

Then type atdt9666 6666  (isp dial up phone number)

Log in manually

then type:

ppp neg (should assign an IP address)

Ctrl-A  Q  to quit minicom without resetting

Minicom should close and then at the prompt:


If it works you will see an IP address appear and then you can telnet/ftp/lynx etc!!!

With the modem connected I downloaded many of the remaining files
that do not fit on the floppy disk set including the x windows ones.
These are not all required

I saved these in similar directories as the ftp server.  The easiest way to
install packages once they are on the harddrive is to type pkgtool within
the directory the packages are in and then install the ones you want.

You can uninstall packages just as simply using the pkgtool

(warning: I've never done this before; havent finished as I write!)
After unpackaging the whole bundle x1 bundle I typed in xf86config
then quickly exited to check video hardware with SuperProbe

Superprobe reported:

First video: Super-VGA
Chipset: Chips and Tech F65545 (Port Probed)
Memory: 1024 Kbytes
RAMDAC: Generic 8-bit pseudo-color DAC
                  (with 6-bit wide lookup tables (or in 6 bit mode))

I then typed in xf86config again.

On my first attempt I selected: (please note I am making non-educated guesses)  (Added later: The settings for VGA below I believe are incorrect see further below...try starting with VGA 640 x 480 x 64k)

PS/2 mouse
emulate 3 buttons: yes
XKB yes
Standard keyboard (probably wrong)
For monitor I played safe and went for option 2 Super VGA 800X600 @ 56 Hz
2 for vertical to be consistent (dohp)
For server type, I, wishfully thinking, chose option 3 XF86_SVGA
default symbolic link
oops....slipped up and typed in 1024 instead of option 3
1024 memory
modes ok 5

Yep yep

Then startx

Can't load library 'libXmu.so.6'

Tip off I read and remembered was to add the path to the /etc/ld.so.conf file

I added the line /usr/X11R6/lib/libXmu.so.6

After rebooting the system I tried typing in


and it worked! (don't ask me how well; haven't installed any apps yet the desktop resolution does look quite pleasing)

The least I can do is:



Other stuff I did on next session:

make command was not working so I installed several modules from the D1 disk set
The make programs particularly but also the egcs C compiler and libc etc

XFree86 reconfiguration 1st attempt:

Video resolution did not allow Navigator to fit on the screen.

My friends who sold me the laptop managed to find the manual!!!! and it is a good manual!

Suggests the machine is capable of up to 40 meg (which is better than the 24 meg I was told it was maxed out to)I also hadn't noticed the line in/line out on the front. I know the sound won't be brilliant but it might come in handy for listening to the races on.

I digress....manual says the LCD default is VGA 640 x 480 x 64k and higher settings are meant to be accessed through Windows virtual desktop.

I had to reconfigure coz I had went for option 2 Super VGA 800X600 @ 56 Hz

Note...I haven't got any further with configuring X as yet....

                                                    Summer 2000

Pulled out the laptop again.

Using pkgtool I uninstalled all X packages.
I then re-installed only what appeared necessary to run XF86 and
the SVGA.tgz package.

I then ran XF86Setup choosing the 65545 video card.

X seems to work OK other than Netscape filling up too much of the screen.
I drag the thing down and then maximise it and it seems to fit OK.
I havent installed any other programs yet.

Tonight I am installing a Xircom 56K PCMCIA modem.
You can read the log I kept as I plundered through this.