So I've had an old iPAQ 3835 for a long time that I've been wanting to throw linux on, but have been too nervous about doing it for fear of turning it into a brick...well tonight I overcame that, and got linux successfully installed! It was actually really easy - much moreso than I was expecting. The basic steps were thus:

  1. Dump BootBlaster onto the iPAQ via ActiveSync.
  2. Use BootBlaster to backup the current bootloader, trasfer that backup to my pc, then use it to re-program the bootloader sector with another custom bootloader.
  3. Reboot the iPAQ, which brings up the new bootloader, then connect to the iPAQ with a serial console.
  4. Update the flash partitions - the bootloader has a few special commands to do this.
  5. Transfer the root image to the iPAQ via an xmodem transfer. Man, it had been a long time since I've done that. Can you say throwback to BBS?
  6. Reboot.

That was it! After doing those few steps, I had a fully-functional palm-sized linux system, complete with sshd. Unfortunately, I don't have a CF wlan card around, so I can't do anything real cool with it yet, but that'll come. I'm just glad I didn't brickify it :-)