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chroot-debian status report


my current project is the chroot-debian setup (a.k.a. zaurus-debian),
which is based on a chroot environment, and uses a storage card (MMC/SD
or CF) to store the Debian system. The native Linux kernel is used to
boot the system and to handle hardware access.

The X11 environment uses Xvnc together with the fbvnc framebuffer client,
which offers virtual desktops larger than the physical display,
anti-aliased rescaling and rotation, 3-button mouse and full keyboard

Here's the web page:

The target audience are people who want an environment on their handheld
which is as similar as possible to their desktop Debian system. End users
who expect slick PIM applications probably won't be happy with it.

The C700 (http://www.dynamism.com/zaurus/index.shtml) is extremely nice
for Debian, since it offers 640x480 resolution and a good keyboard. Other
supported platforms are the Zaurus 5x00 series (OpenZaurus, Sharp and
Crow ROMs) and the Compaq/HP iPAQ. It should be easy to adapt to other
similar Linux-capable handhelds, since there are few hardware

I've been pleasantly surprised at the minimal amount of changes needed to
get Debian up and running. The only changes were:

- fake libgl package, to prevent xbase-clients from pulling in mesa

- fake mail-transport-agent, so that you can install mutt or other MUAs
  that also work using IMAP without a local MTA.

Some other dependencies that don't affect the default environment might
also need looking at - I don't understand why the galeon web browser
depends on libcdparanoia...

For bootstrapping, I wrote a script myself, but I guess that debootstrap
(which I wasn't aware of at the time) would also have worked. Well, it
was a useful learning experience, and my script also handles
dependencies, virtual packages and alternatives automatically using only
egrep and sed :-)

The applications I'm currently using on my C700 include:

- jpilot for PIM tasks. Infrared syncing with a Palm handheld works,
  as does dialing numbers on a cellphone directly from the contacts page.

- irobex tools for beaming contacts and files (this is a hack, since it 
  isn't integrated well with jpilot).

- dillo for web browsing. I've also installed galeon, but that currently
  has some problems with some fonts not being displayed correctly.
  WiFi and infrared-capable cellphones work for Internet access.

- ssh, mutt and mailfwd to download mail for offline reading and

- gv for viewing PDF and PS documents.

- madplay/mp3buff for playing mp3 files.

- nethack, prboom and other useful utilities for long, boring meetings.

I still haven't installed a movie player, but mplayer is being used by
others. It might need some tuning to get better performance on the

Open tasks that I'm working on include updates to fbvnc/Xvnc to improve
performance further, and fixes for the installation process and
environment. On the Debian side, apt-get handles software installation
just fine.


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