NetBSD on an IPC Topnote 5033



First of all, this laptop is buggy and I cannot recommend buying it. I got it free of charge and it took me a while to find an OS that runs stable and supports all the hardware.

As suggested by Bernd Wurst (see links), I tried out Debian Sarge. It works great as a desktop, but I was looking for a imho more "clean" and secure OS - so I tried installing FreeBSD: without much luck. 6.0 and 5.4 crash right at boot, the 4.11-RELEASE works --although uhci isn't proper initialised-- quite well, but it is outdated and there won't be any security updates for long, so I had to look for another solution.

OpenBSD boots after disabling uhci, but doesn't recognize my cardbus-devices. I don't know much about OpenBSD and haven't had the time to get into compiling my own kernel, so I skipped it.

NetBSD was next. After some initial frustration with 2.0 and 2.1 refusing to boot at all, I installed 3.0-RELEASE which turned out to work absolutely perfect after compiling my own kernel. The system runs very stable and "feels" faster than on any other OS that I saw actually running on this laptop (Win98, Debian, FreeBSD 4.11).


CPU AMD K6-2, 366 Mhz  
RAM 160 MB  
Disk IBM DDLA-21620 1.55GB  
Graphics Trident TGU 9660 (2MB RAM)  
Floppy Standard  
CD-ROM CD-224E (24x)  
Sound ESS ES1869 Plug and Play Audio ok
USB 1.0, uhci, 1 port ok
APM 1.2 ok
PCMCIA 2 slots ok
IRDA   not tested

If you're interested in an output of dmesg(8), take a look here.

NetBSD kernel configuration

The topnote's BIOS doesn't provide a possibility to set off Plug'n'Play OS - this leads to various problems running *BSD on the machine.

As a result, uhci is recognized, but remains unconfigured and is unuseable, because no IRQ could be assigned. The solution to this issue is to build your own kernel and turn on the following options:

options         PCIBIOS
options         PCIBIOS_INTR_GUESS
options         PCIBIOS_ADDR_FIXUP
options         PCIBIOS_BUS_FIXUP
options         PCIBIOS_INTR_FIXUP
options         PCIBIOSVEROSE
options         PCIBIOS_IRQS_HINT=0x0a00

Especially the last line does the trick, it reserves IRQ 9 and 10, so IRQ 9 can be assigned to uhci. See pcibios(4) for details.

Everything else should "just work"™ as expected. I was really surprised how good NetBSD handled the hardware. Two thumbs up!

The complete config for my customized NetBSD-3.0 kernel is located here: TOPNOTE-NetBSD-3-0.txt


I use the Topnote 5033 for server purposes inside my homelan only, because I don't need it as a desktop anymore. It runs very silent, iff the fan is switched off, doesn't use much energy and was "just sitting there", waiting for a job ;-)

In the past, I used it as a (Debian-based) desktop for a while, but I lost my configs. There weren't many problems regarding running XFree on the machine, although I had some issues with the trident driver. Switching to vesa did the trick here. If you really want to run X on this rather slow machine I suggest IceWM as a window manager, because it's fancy, stable and doesn't need much ressources.