Debian Toughbook


Debian Linux On A Panasonic Toughbook CF-27

Flickr Photo Set Here


Listed On Tuxmobil

Why I Ask You, Why ?

I saw it cheap on eBay for only 99 GBP from icex plus a wee bit to boost the RAM.

I wanted to build a system purely for emulating older systems. 8 bit concoles and the old home computers, zx spectrum and commodore 64, as well as playing Scumm games.

I also thought I would try emulating DOS and running other classic games using dosbox. Turned out I did not read the man page for dosbox well enough. You still need a fairly powerful machine (Over 1 GHz) to emulate a very old PC. I may just purchase a bigger hard drive and simply install DOS on a partition.

Specifications (for Mk 1 )

  Intel Pentium 266mhz MMX processor # Mine was actually a Pentium 2 300 Mhz ! Whoo Hoo :)
  64MB RAM (sdRAM pc66mhz) # mines is 192 MB RAM PC100
  4.3 GB hd # The drive in my machine was 6.4 GB, Apparently BIOS limit is 30 GB
  12.1" TFT screen - 800x600 resolution
  Integral DVD/CD rom
  UK keyboard with touchpad # A very poor touchpad
  Soundblaster compatible sound
  2x type II PCMCIA (cardbus) slots
  serial, parallel, PS2, infra red, VGA ports
  USB port
  Li-ion battery & charger

I think there ae a few different model revisions of the CF 27. Please tell me if there are any significant differences.

Related Links

Toughbook Wiki

Toughbook Wikipedia Entry

Official Toughbook Site


In short. Debian 3.1 no problems. Under an hour.

Right I have had to reinstall from scratch after my dos and win2k experiments. I had some problem with the installer not finding my network card (pcmcia). I had to use the following line to boot the debian installer :

  linux26 acpi=off noapic nolapic pci=usepirqmask

I have no idea how many of them are needed.

  The linux 2.6 kernel seems to be need to work with the pcmcia slot, if the pci=usepirqmask
  option is not used the system hangs when I try to use my network card. I think the noapic and
  nolapic options may be entirely superfluous. I am currently running Puppy Linux with just the
  pci=usepirqmask option. It works very very well.

Dual Boot DOS and Debian

A brief guide on how I got them both working on the same system.

Dual Boot DOS and Debian

Dapper Drake

I tried using the Dapper Drake release of Ubuntu, it was a no go. The installer hanged. I never actually tried the boot options above, please leave feedback if you have any info.

Installed Software

Sega Master System – Osmose


  Here is the final version of Osmose. I will be absent from October 2005, for more than one year, 
  with no possibility to write a single line of code (*cough*). That why i do this final release. 
  Writing this emu was really a funny experience, especially with the help of SMSPOWER guys :-)

Have changed to running Meka on the DOS partition, for that instant gratification. Osmose worked well for the time I used it.

Sega Genesis – dgen

I use dgen to emulate the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive). As it is easily installed via apt-get. It no longer seems to be supported though so I will include links to other emulators. Feel free to leave comments about how good they are, or are not.


In the bad old days before OS X and cheap Macs, I used Linux. The operating system isn’t exactly known for its wide library of games, so back in ’98 I took the open-source DGen Sega Genesis emulator for Windows and ported it to the SDL library, bringing the joys of Genesis emulation to Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS, and other minority platforms.

DGEN Config File

Other emulators

Generator – The Sega Genesis Emulator

his is a modified version of Generator by James Ponder based on version 0.35. It is known to work on FreeBSD, NetBSD and Linux.

Have gone over to using generator on the DOS partition.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System – ZSNES


  ZSNES is a Super Nintendo emulator programmed by zsKnight and _Demo_. On April 2, 2001 the ZSNES project was GPL'ed 
  and its source released to the public. It currently runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and DOS. Remember that this is 
  a public beta so don't expect this to run on your machine.

ZSNES Config File

ZSNES also runs on DOS. There don’t seem to me and many graphical fripperies, but it works well.

Visual Boy Advance – VisualBoyAdvance

Visual Boy Advance

Can play GB and GBC games without any problem. Not quite powerful enough to play GBA games. Not that I tried particularly hard.

VBA Config File

Gone over tousing KIGB on the DOS partition. I think it only plays GB/C games.

ZX Spectrum – FUSE

Pictures Here

Fuse is by far the best spectrum emulator I used. You need to do some extra work to get the binaries. Links are provided in the download section.

Fuse – the Free Unix Spectrum Emulator

  Fuse (the Free Unix Spectrum Emulator) was originally, and somewhat unsurprisingly, a Spectrum emulator for    
  Unix. However, it has now also been ported to Mac OS X, which may or may not count as a Unix variant depending
  on your advocacy position.

Have gone over to RealSpec on the DOS partition.

xmame and xmess


Xmame and Xmess

Xmame Config File

Xmess Config File

Plays the older games and systems without much trouble. Anything too recent runs into problems. I strongly suggest using AdvanceMenu as a frontend. It makes life much much easier.



  AdvanceMENU is a frontend for AdvanceMAME, MAME™, MESS, RAINE and any other emulator.

Advance Menu Config File

Interactive Fiction – Gargoyle

Gargoyle And City Of Secrets

Gargoyle and Magnetic Scrolls

I am about to start using Gargoyle as it is so pretty. From the site:

  "Gargoyle cares about typography! In this computer age of typographical poverty, 
   where horrible fonts, dazzling colors, and inadequate white space is God, Gargoyle dares to rebel!"

I was also using zag though this requires Java

  Zag 1.06, a fully featured implementation of Glulx 2.0.0
  in Java, by Jon Zeppieri. Requires Sun JRE 1.4 or better.
  Archive includes source and compiled class files.

Work on the original gargoyle has stopped. It is beng continued here:

Gargoyle Mod

I currently can not get it to run on Debian stable. There again I have not tried that hard 🙂

Configuration Files

Toughbook lsmod

Toughbook xf86config

Toughbook lspci


2 responses to “Debian Toughbook

  1. Pingback: DOS Toughbook « Doug’s Devices & Desires

  2. I picked up a CF-27 Toughbook on ebay for us$38 and it appeared to have never been used. I replaced the 5 gig drive with a 12 gig and dual loaded W2000 and Xubuntu. The Xubuntu runs faster than the 2000 but with a 266mhz chip what can you expect. If you loved waiting for Win3.2 to run, then you would love this. Suggest at least a 400mhz machine. I tried DSL (damn small linux) but the screen would not support it. The CF-27 does come in 500mhz as well. I am looking for one.

    Meanwhile I have dual booted my Toughbook CF-28 800mhz with XP and Ubuntu and love it. The machines are the Humvees of the laptop world. Also picked up a CF-48 for us$95 on ebay that I am fine tuning. That runs at 1.8ghz. The CF-48 is not armored.


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