Linux on Zenith Z-Note-MX

This page provides information about how to run Linux on the Zenith Z-Note-MX notebook. Some information may be useful for other notebooks too.

Currently I use a Debian 2.1 but it should be possible to run any other distribution on the Z-Note.

If you feel like there is something missing here please contact me.

(Note that this page is about the TFT-800x600 version of the Z-Note-MX)


The hardware specific and all other information on this page is given without any warranty! All of the precedures described here will make you loos your warranty! And some of them can seriously damage your hardware! Take great care!

Most of the software information is now (07/2002) heavily outdated. I have not even the time to remove it. ;-)

The X-Window system

The graphics chip is a CT65548 with PCI interface. You can use the svga server. Here is an old /etc/X11/XF86Config.


The sound chip is a ES1688 SoundDrive. You can really use the Sound-Blaster driver for this card, since it is 100% SBPro compatible (even in Linux terms). See an old cat /dev/sndstat. The Fn-Volume control works (Hardware).

Touch-pad: PS/2 Mouse

The builtin touch-pad (and any external PS/2 Mouse device in replacement to the touch-pad) is a standard PS/2 Mouse. Configure GPM (virtual console mouse selection) with gpm -m /dev/psaux -t ps2. Set ps2 as mouse type for X11. Of course you need the ps/2 support in the kernel.

External keyboard

An external keyboard (connected to the PS/2 connector) shows much slower repeat rates than the builtin keyboard. To fix this just do a
kbdrate -r30 -d250
by hand or somewhere in your startup scripts.

80x50 Text-Console

SVGATextMode can be used to set the virtual console resolution to 80 x 50 characters. The other resolutions did not work very well, but you may try them anyway. Since the default font looks very ugly (in 800x600) you should choose a font from /usr/share/consolefonts. Here is my /etc/TextConfig.

However, you can also set the 80x50 mode in the kernel command line (e.g. vga=65534).


PCI information: cat /proc/pci
Interrupts: cat /proc/interrupts

Processor Upgrade

Note: This is no official information. This is all from my private experiments. You may seriously damage your hardware when replacing your processor. I will not take any warranty for what you do. I am not responsible for what you do.


You can set the bus frequency to 50 or 66 MHz and you can set the clock multiplication factor to 1.5x or 2.0x. This is done with the DIL switches on the back below the memory expansion slots. You can use any standard (single power-plane/P54, no MMX) pin-out compatible CPU and run it at 75, 100 or 133 MHz.

My 75Mhz CPU even worked at 100MHz (stable), but it all got very hot. Now I use a P133 at 133MHz and it also gets very hot after one hour or so but it works stable. Anyway: You should make sure to keep the notebook as cool as possible.

Here are the switches and their meanings:

- 1.5x (default)- (default)66 MHz-
(default)2.0x (default)- 50 MHz (default)(default)


Now I use a P233MMX in the Z-Note! It works at 133, 166 and 200 MHz. The notebook switches itself off after 10 seconds at 233 MHz (I guess due to high current consumption) and wont start again for about 20 minutes. However it works 100% stable at 200MHz and does not get hotter than with the P75 running at 100MHz ;-). Amazingly the socket in the Z-Note is a dual power plane with a reduced core voltage of 2.9 Volts while I/O is still at 3.3V. The original P75 is a special type. Note that we are talking about technology years before Intel introduced the dual power plane MMX CPUs.

But you need to tweak a little: The original P75 has a different logic for the BF0 jumper (you can't use the switch anymore) and the BF1 is hardwired in the wrong way. Since all the CPU-pins are accessible from above while the CPU in in the socket I just cut of the BF0/BF1 pins (so they can't cause any harm) and I pull them up/down via an external Dip-switch. So I can select between 133, 166 and 200 MHz without opening the notebook. I also added a small fan to the side of the Notebook to give it at least a little cooling (which seems to be sufficient). At 200MHz the whole notebook gets very hot but works 100% stable. I also upgraded the hard disk to 2GB -- the screws did not fit for the frame and the new disk.

The notebook even survived a rally trip through the Tunisian Sahara with lots of sand and dust and heat. Seems to be really tough.

How to open the notebook

Since I was often asked how to open the ZNote here is a short description I wrote.

What is the pinout of the strange external power connector?

I had to look at a handwritten piece of paper and I don't have the notebook here right now, so please doublecheck the following information before connecting anything to the notebook. I am not responsible for what you do with this information.

When looking onto the socket on the side of the notebook from the outside you see the following (the orientation may be different):

  /  O  \
 |       |
 |       |
 |O     O|

  2     3

1: black wire in cable: +18V regulated (or nonregulated?) DC
2: red wire in cable: GND (ground)
3: green wire in cable: (some kind of signal back to the power supply???)

Note on 1: The notebook also works with the 12V current in a car if you really get more than 11.5 Volts into the the Notebook. You should put a big low frequency filter (coil and capacitor combination) into the circuit to avoid damage caused by high voltage peaks coming from the alternator. It may however be dangerous to do it! Also note: The battery is not charged below 18 Volts!

Note on 3: The Notebook does not seem to need this pin connected. I don't know exactly but I think it is a sense pin for the power supply.

Accesses since Feb. 21, 2000:Counter
© 1997-2001 by Johannes Overmann <> - 2001 Dec 26