Linux on an HP Omnibook 900

by Rob Butera (

This is a rugged well built 4+ pound notebook computer that I purchased in July 1999.  I won't go into all the details on installing linux, since it isn't too different from installing linux on anything else.  I will go into a few particular points of difficulty.

I should note that HP later modified the Omnibook 900 with some improved features after I bought mine, so your mileage may vary.

My installation is an HP Omnibook 900 with 160Mb RAM, running SuSE 6.3.  The current kernel is 2.2.14, with the 3.1.14 pcmcia drivers and RTAI 1.3 (if you don't know what RTAI is, you don't need it).  Perpherals include the hot-swappable CD drive, a Xircom Realport modem/ethernet card, and an Adaptec 1480 SlimSCSI card.  I also use it as my desktop with an external 19" monitor, my favorite clicky IBM AT keyboard, and a Logitech MarbleMan+ TrackBall (and of course the docking station).

Here are some of the issues you may confront:


I had no trouble repartitioning the existing Windows drive using FIPS.  Don't touch /dev/hda4, since this is the "hibernation" partition.

X Configuration

The neomagic chipset is now natively supported by the SVGA driver in xfree86, so this is not really troublesome anymore (it was when I first got it).


This took weeks to figure out, by trial and error.  You can get sound to work using OSS-lite that comes with the kernel and DO NOT need to purchase the commercial OSS with Neomagic support!

Go into your BIOS setup (F2 on bootup) and write down your Windows Sound System settings.  I got sound to work by using the following modules with the following options:

insmod soundcore
insmod sound dmabuf=1
insmod ad1848 io=0x530 irq=5 dma=1

You could figure out how to put all this in your modules.conf file, which I usually do, but for some reason (boot order?), I never had luck getting sound to work that way.  So I just added the above 3 lines to the end of my /etc/rc.d/boot.local script. UPDATE Now working just be editing modules.conf. I've got the following two lines there:

alias char-major-14 ad1848

options ad1848 io=0x530 irq=5 dma=1

This only gives your mixer control over the PCM volume, but that's all I need so it keeps me happy ...

Hot-Swapping and Other Drive Issues

The Omnibook comes with a single hot-swap bay with a floppy disk.  I also have the CD-ROM.  Here is my experience, your mileage may vary:


My Xircom modem/ethernet card worked as advertised.  One issue had to deal with is that several of the init programs on bootup wanted to access the card resources (such as ethernet) before the pcmcia drivers were installed.  This was fixed by changing the start priority of the pcmcia init script in /etc/rc.d/rc2.d and /etc/rc.d/rc3.d to S01pcmcia.


For the Adaptec 1480 SlimSCSI, Use the latest version of the Linux pcmcia drivers available -- I am currently using 3.1.14. This driver kept on locking up until I read the "BUGS" file -- the solution is to edit the PCMCIA init script at /etc/rc.d/pcmcia and change




I hope these tips help someone else, and I hope the "sound advice" may prove useful on other Neomagic-based laptop computers.