Toughbook CF-27, welcome to 2012

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-27
500 Mhz PIII CPU
192 MB PC100 RAM
12 GB Hard drive
CD Drive

Most of you readers may not know what this is. But if you Googled this, welcome and I hope you find what you are looking for! Because this is a guide on how to fully use your out-of-date toughbook in 2012. Welcome to the Apocalypse.
old toughbook

Before you head out into the wild frontier, we need to make sure the hardware is maxed out. Do you have a charger for this netbook? If not, buy one here,
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170799011726#ht_1368wt_1039
Not only are they cheap, but they ship from LA, although they might take a long time shipping it for some reason. No matter, the total price and shipping combined makes this a decent deal for a cheap generic charger.

Next you’ll want to buy a stick of 256MB PC100 ram. You can have a maximum of 320 RAM total according to a reliable source. (I’ve personally bought a 128MB piece and mine has a total or 192MB) In case you already opened up the laptop and noticed it only has one stick of ram, you may be thinking, “Why am I buying a 256MB piece then?” Silly person! This Toughbook has a whopping 64MB built into the motherboard! And yes, it’s fully functional if you pull out that one stick of ram, and boot the laptop, it’ll just be a bit slower. But if your laptop already has it’s ram maxed out, then move on and skip this step.

The maximum hard drive space on these toughbooks, may seem like 30GB, but if you use a different hard drive controller piece, you may go up to 120GB IDE hard drives. But seriously, who needs so much space on an old machine always? I would highly not recommend storing valuable info on old computers. But if you want to….

Let’s go hard drive shopping!
The hard drive is kind of interesting the way it’s held in. Foam padding provides a spongy mattress for the little spinning disk, allowing it survive harder impacts than regular spinning disks, although if you really had the money to spend, I would put it in an IDE SSD. Meaning something like this.
http://www.logicsupply.com/products/cfdisk_2g Meh $10 – $20
An IDE 2.5″ enclosure to Compact Flash + a CF card would work just fine. And even though compact flash cards are expensive http://www.amazon.com/Maxell-CompactFlash-Type-Flash-Memory/dp/B005X3J5NC/ref=pd_sim_sbs_e_4 EX. 30$ for 16GB. They save power and maybe might speed up your laptop, if that is the bottleneck, which is not the case for the Panasonic toughbook CF-27, most likely it’s a combination of the slow CPU and the RAM. But if you have the money to spend $50 or more on a 16GB SSD for an old laptop, just know it’s out there.
http://www.amazon.com/Transcend-32GB-SSD-2-5-Inch/dp/B000T9QRKE This one is awesome! But not all of us are rich to afford shoveling money into antiques, so let’s get realistic and upgrade to this if we really need that space.
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0387049 This is more realistic. And cheaper too. And a 30GB HD for $20 takes it home! Don’t bother too much looking for new, cause really, it’s either hard to find, or expensive. (please keep in mind, the hard drives/online stores I suggested in this post have not been tested on the CF-27, you will have to research on your own to see if it is even compatible with your machine. These are merely suggestions, maybe bad ones who knows.)

PCMCIA Cards. These card are like extra USB or IDE ports for your laptop, the toughbook has only 1 USB, but two PCMCIA card slots on the right. I already had a wireless B card lying around and since this Toughbook is slow, and the card is slow, it’s a perfect match! Also Crunch Bang OS (The OS I will be using for this Panasonic ToughBook) quickly detected it and allowed it to be plug and play. But keep in mind, the Wifi card only works on the top slot. (I know, I tried) If you do not want a wi-fi card for fear it may be too slow. Get a PCMCIA Ethernet card! Not only are they cheaper, but most likely to work under Linux. Just make sure it’s compatible with Debian or whatever OS you will be using. (I bought this one. http://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-10-100Mbps-Card-TE100-PCBUSR/dp/B00006I5X6 on Ebay used for $10 and it works fine under Linux! But it was not plug an play, so insert card, reboot, it works!) Now Craigslist is much faster using the Ethernet than WiFi.

Now that you maxed out the hardware, let’s look at installing an operating system.

In order to save you from burning CD’s like crazy. I’d like to let you know that this laptop can actually boot from USB, you just need to use this CD.
http://www.plop.at/en/ploplinux/livecd.html#licreate
Download, burn to a CD, and plug in usb, boot from CD, tell CD to boot to USB. Done.
Or just burn the following Linux Distro to a CD. Do it the easy way, fine…

Now, you will need the operating system before you do what I mentioned above. I highly recommend this distro for this specific laptop. Not only is it easy to set up out of the box, but very light and powerful.
http://crunchbanglinux.org/
Crunchbang is based on Debian so it’s GNU/Linux, meaning we will not use Windows for this.
Crunchbang WILL run on 64MB of ram, but it’s more like a zombie running rather than a human running type of deal, zombies are slow. Now after installing Crunchbang on this laptop(which will take a while), whether it was through USB or you burned the OS to a CD. It will take like a minute and a half to boot, and another 30 seconds to get online. (while it’s booting try not to think about the name Crunchbang, it doesn’t sound like a good name for a solid operating system. But then again neither is Windows, cause I can break windows sooo easily.)

Next is the sound. If you even tried playing a song, You may notice that VLC player whines about, “mehh I can’t find ALSA whatever!” Well, let put that in there! Download this Firmware now!
http://www.alsa-project.org/main/index.php/Main_Page
On the page right there is something called alsa-firmware. Download that and put in a safe folder on your Toughbook. Preferably somewhere hidden where you will not delete, but have write access to. Next, extract the folder there. Now that you can look inside, let’s start compiling firmware! YAY!

1: cd to wherever that folder is. Using a TERMINAL
2: ./configure
3: make (or sudo make if that didn’t work)
4. sudo make install
5: Reboot
6: Play oldies music and maybe you won’t notice how terrible the little speaker is on that Toughbook.
7: Go weep in a corner for wasting time.

In case these instructions are too hard, I’m sorry. I’m not good at explaining this cause here are the instructions I was given.

Download Firmware, Compile, Reboot.

So be happy at least you have my steps, if you can’t follow them, please don’t try compiling Firmware patches without some Linux Dude by your side on IRC or whatever.

Battery life on this thing is great!!! It get’s at least 2 hours of use! The guy who last used it, lost the charger years ago and didn’t mess with it, but I was genuinely surprised when it still held a charge just fine!

In the end, the Toughbook runs fine, if you don’t mind being patient and forget about multitasking. It can play some videos, music, write word documents, print, and surf the web using Chromium and Midori(just please don’t do all at the same time!). Just very slowly and use only one tab. Ohh and of course, no Java and Flash so that means YouTube. I got Youtube to work, but it’s not fun.

I’d like to thanks these sites for providing me the info i needed and helping me setup laptop (Toughbook).
http://all-tech-thoughts.blogspot.com/2010/05/linux-on-panasonic-toughbook-cf-27.html
http://reviews.ebay.com/Buying-used-Panasonic-CF-27-Toughbook-with-Touchscreen?ugid=10000000008481182

Video here of the laptop booting.

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About Zerin

But can you show me the source code?

Posted on April 20, 2012, in Computers and Internet, Linux Stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Managed even to put on a Windows XP SP3 on this machine with both the audio AND the touchscreen working!!!! (also Wireless and GIGALAN are working in PCMCIA slots)
    I only use 1 single program on this CF-27: JUKEBOX with all the mp3’s on an usb-hdd. It works flawless!
    Keep up the good work.
    PS. Only problem is getting a new battery at at least the same price i got the whole cf-27 for: 50$. :-) It only runs on mains power now, the original battery is broken/won’t charge anymore.
    Next project: will be ‘upgrading’ a brand new (unused) but OLD m-34 + docking… Wil be fun!

    cfgr@usa.net

  2. Try using Puppy Linux. I have had good success with this release, but still need to config touch screen.

  3. I will try with this one, because my hard is dead. http://www.microcenter.com/product/387049/30GB_25_PATA_%28IDE%29_Internal_Hard_Drive_-_Refurbished but i have 1 question. My IDE is with 44 pins. But there is IDE with 40 pins. How many pins have this hdd ?

    • Good question. All 2.5″ hard drives should already be 44pin for IDE since the extra pins are for laptop stuff. If it had only 40 pins it’s meant for 3.5″ desktop drives. Now, about the hard drive I shared in the Link. I never purchased it or tested it. So I can’t say for 100% sure that it is a 44pin model. But I would bet 20$ that it is becuase most if not all 2.5″ hard drives are 44pins. I used the original 10GB drive that came with my laptop because the customer didn’t need to upgrade.

  4. I found this picture with pinouts. http://i.stack.imgur.com/qEPth.gif I have already purchased this HDD, because as i said mine is dead.Now I’m waiting to see how many pins it have. Thank you for fast reply and sorry for my English.

  5. Richard Vermeulen

    I also have a CF-27 300Mhz pentium 2 (mark2) and a 266Mhz pentium 1 (mark 1) machine. Your info is not accurate. The maximum memory of the CF-27 mk2 and your cF-27 is NOT 192 megabyte, but 320 megabyte. I installed several 256MB so-dims in it, and it got 64 MB +256 = 320 mb. I work with windows xp sp2, and surfing the net is okay with 320mb memory. Playing a DVD movie is also possible if you use the 320mb for cashing the DVD.

    Greetings from Richard Vermeulen, from the Netherlands
    – A toughbook fanatic.

  6. Richard Vermeulen

    Another thing i must mention: If you have the GPRS / GSM module in the CF-27, you can use it, for voice phone calls and sending/receiving SMS messages. I tried it with Vodafone and KPN (holland) sim cards. The GPRS / GSM module is not recognised by Windows XP, but if you use Hyper Terminal or some other program, simple use modem Com port 4, and set the baud rate to 9600 baud.

    • Thanks for the extra details, I’ll add info to the post, it’s definitely good to know that the toughbook can handle more ram and use the GPRS/GSM module.

  7. Richard Vermeulen

    Oh, and another thing: The CF-27 mark 1 , officially only supports EDO ram (according to the panasonic sources). But it actually also supports SD-RAM. As EDO ram are kinda old and sometimes expensive to buy, you can simply buy SD-ram and use it. I also did this. My CF-27 mark 1 booted up and now has 160MB ram. One thing i dont know for sure, if the 32MB onboard EDO ram, can conflict with the 128MB SD-ram…. I am using my Cf-27 mark 1 for several months, and never had any problems with these 2 dirfent mixed-up rams….

  8. Richard Vermeulen

    Zerin, i have a question, concerning something you wrote above: “The maximum hard drive space on these toughbooks, may seem like 30GB, but if you use a different hard drive controller piece, you may go up to 120GB IDE hard drives” . How do you use a difrent harddrive control and what brand+type is it ?

  9. Richard Vermeulen

    Since the CF-27 mk2 was my first toughbook, i now have 30+ toughbooks, Cf-28,Cf-29, CF-18 and CF-M34, Even a Cf-71. Anyhow, i tried my huge game collection on the CF-M34 and Cf-27 and made a list of all the games that work (without a 3D videochip). I posted it on the toughbook wiki. This list is handy if you like to play games on your CF-27 (or CF-M34)…. http://toughbook.wikispaces.com/Games+that+can+be+played+on+a+Panasonic+Toughbook+CF-M34+and+CF-27

  10. Richard Vermeulen

    I also got Unreal Tournament 2004 working on a standard CF-27 mark2 (300Mhz) and a Cf-M34 400Mhz machine. Only a little bit of hacking of the UT 2004 grafix driver, and voilas. Playable on a nice CF-27 and Cf-M34 machine. !!!!

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