This howto is purely informative and I'm not responsible for any mistake that can append in the process.

Debian GNU/Linux is a complete GNU/Linux distribution that run on 14 different architectures, including MIPS. Emtec have choosen Mandriva, a well established french GNU/Linux distributor, to ship a GLinux os for their Gdium. You may want to switch to Debian GNU/Linux on this netbook, for wathever reasons. Just follow me.







Preparing the ground

The very first operation

First of all, you should get a free USB stick with at least 2GB free. Beware this is a minimum. Plug it in on your usual computer and create at least a 2GB partition using ([c]fdisk|(g|qt)parted). Then create a ext2 partition (you don't really need journaling on a system partition that leaves on a usb stick) using mke2fs -L gdium /dev/usbstick1. You then need to install some tools, such debootstrap on your gdium, using urpmi debootstrap as root. You then plug the key on your gdium, mount the partition in, let say, /mnt/debian and then : debootstrap --arch=mipsel sid /mnt/debian as root.
After a few minutes, you can chroot in your Debian system. Just before, be sure to copy your /etc/resolv.conf to /mnt/debian/etc/resolv.conf and to set the new host name : echo MYHOSTNAME > /etc/hostname. You then just run chroot /mnt/debian /bin/bash

Installing a kernel

You need to install a kernel. Alas, Debian do not yet provide Gdium kernels. Philippe Vachon provides us with a debian kernel with cpu frequence scaling. Just get it and install it : wget && dpkg -i linux-2.6.24-gdium-1_2.6.24-gdium-1_mipsel.deb.

Almost done

I suggest you to install udev and some stuff such as lm_sensors for automatic recognition on first boot and to prevent overheat. Here comes /etc/modules and /etc/sensors.conf :

# /etc/modules: kernel modules to load at boot time.
# This file contains the names of kernel modules that should be loaded
# at boot time, one per line. Lines beginning with "#" are ignored.
# Parameters can be specified after the module name.


chip "lm75-*"
set temp_over 60
set temp_hyst 55

Using Debian

Booting on Debian

Halt the Gdium, remove the G-Key and put your USB stick in the front slot. Most of the sticks should have enough space to fit in. Start the Gdium and hit Del to access the PROM prompt. Just type in :

load /dev/fs/ext2@usbg0/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-gdium-1
g console=tty0 root=/dev/sda1 rootwait video=sm501fb:1024x600 init=/sbin/init

French user should note that PMON work with an US keyboard, so I provide here a key mapping :

  • Numbers are on the same place, except in lowercase, so you must not use the Shift Modifier to get them
  • @ is S-2
  • / is !
  • m is ,
  • z is w
  • . is :
  • : is S-m
  • a is q
  • - is )
You just then hit Return and the Gdium boot

Installing Debian software on the Gdium

Bootstrap process just use the main repository. But you may want some non-free (in Debian terminology) packages such as the binary firmware for the wifi chip. Just add non-free to your sources.list. One way to do it is sed -i 's/main/main non-free/' /etc/apt/sources.list && aptitude update && aptitude install firmware-ralink.

One piece of software you will probably want is a nice graphical user interface. LXDE is quite popular among netbooks, so I recommend you to install it. Before, you will need a X driver for the siliconmotion chipset. Just grab the one made by Philippe and install it before LXDE. The best way to perform this operation is :
dpkg -i xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion_1.7.0-0_mipsel.deb
aptitude install xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse

By now, you should have a functionnal debian powered netbook, so just use any Debian docs found on the net, which you feel comfortable with.

Nice job

Nice job - btw you can find the US keyboard layout in the wiki at

Actually it has good introduction to pmon and access to manual (commands etc).


by fab gamberini February 20, 2009 - 10:54


Thanks a lot for your explanation. I tried it and I have no a running Debian, where I feel much more at home.

Just some nitpicking.

I had also to install chroot before being able to complete a debootstrap. Also I called debootstrap with a mirror, e.g. I used

/usr/sbin/debootstrap --arch=mipsel lenny /mnt/debian<!--EndFragment-->

Is it p, li { white-space: pre-wra /etc/sensors.conf or /etc/sensors3.conf ??

Also one needs to install   xserver-xorg-core along with xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion.

by Niklaus Giger March 15, 2009 - 02:31

Thank you, this was a help in

Thank you, this was a help in getting my Debian system up and going. A few random comments about where my experience differed:


When you install via debootstrap, you have to do a lot of things manually -- for example before rebooting you need to set a root password :). You'll also need to create a regular user for yourself, add that user to groups like audio, video, dip, dialout, etc. And you'll need to replace the fake start-stop-daemon that debootstrap installls with the real thing.


For me, the sensor settings were in /etc/sensors3.conf, and they were:

set temp1_max 60
set temp1_max_hyst 55

Also right now, the siliconmotion driver package you link to doesn't install due to conflicts with recent xorg packaging changes, and the latest Debian sid package segfaults for me, so I have to use fbdev as the driver to get X started.

by John Sullivan May 03, 2009 - 06:20

HiI have this probleme in


I have this probleme in syslog

soc-audio soc-audio: sm501_read_codec failed: addr=7e sram=4760

there is some option for loading audio modules ?

there is no sound in output, i don't find sm501_read_codec* in /lib/modules

this is resolved by adding sm501_gpio missed in /etc/modules

and remodify the group thanks


I have another sound problem ,

can't hear sound by pc speaker,

but i hear in headphone with max volume for PCM and Master in alsamixer
thanks for your help


by jean-baptiste Masurel July 04, 2009 - 13:23

Hi, I followed the



I followed the instructions from  Yajin here: and it worked pretty well

Did you add your user to the audio group?


usermod - G audio yourUser



by Julien Forgeat July 01, 2009 - 11:20

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