IRISNotes Digital Pen

There exist so-called Digital Pens, which will record what they are writing electronically, while writing on paper. These pens belong to two categories:

  1. The kind that require special paper.
  2. The kind that require a receiver be attached to the top of the sheet, which senses the positions of the pen during writing, but which do not require special paper.

The IRISNotes is a digital pen of the second kind, of which I happen to own one.

In general, I do not find this type of pen very useful, because the need does not arise often, to be writing on paper, yet to be digitizing what is written anyway. However, I have this pen, and have in the past installed Windows software to download its writings onto my PC.

I felt that it would be a challenge to get this relic to work again, while using Linux software to download its data. For that purpose, it was helpful to note, that the hardware is of the ‘Pegasus’ variety, regardless of how it was branded. And then it was easy to find a special, Linux, software-project, the aim of which was to do exactly that.

This software only comes in binary form, packaged for Ubuntu. Using Debian, we do not have a mechanism for PPAs. And so the only way for me to get it running, was to custom-compile it, which I easily did.

Aside from custom-compiling, I needed to create the following file:


/etc/udev/rules.d/50-hidraw.rules :

ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="hidraw*", MODE="0666"


(Update 04/23/2018 :

Actually, by now I’ve discovered that the project source tree actually has a sub-directory named ‘udev’, which contains the recommended Rules File.

The Rule I created above will certainly work, but by giving user-access to any and every HIDRAW device-file, may not provide the highest level of security. And so I would recommend that readers do what I’ve done myself by now – To use the Rules File supplied with the project. )

I should note that my version of IRISNotes pen is first-generation. I cannot guarantee that any of this will work with an IRIS 2 or an IRIS Executive 2 -type pen. I just happened to own a pen which was collecting dust, with the idle thought of wanting to reactivate it.

The version of this pen which I have, has two modes of operation: USB-mode and Bluetooth-mode. The BT-mode has always been rather pointless, because it would need an active wireless connection while I was writing. It was originally meant to work with Android and iOS devices, but lacked in performance.

The ability to download pages of writing that are saved in the receiver-module, has always been limited to working in USB-mode.

And so I am happy to announce, that my project was a success, and that I am able to use the command-line tool to convert captured data to SVG (image) files.

The ability to do OCR on the writing has always required Windows or OS/X, and under Linux, whatever ability we want, to convert the SVG drawings to text, must be supplied by the user or not at all. I am not that far along with it yet.

The way this pen works is interesting to note.

It emits ultrasound-pulses, and the receiver has two microphones. But, if all the receiver could measure, was the difference in the arrival time of the sound-pulses to two microphones, this would not be enough to fix the position of the tip of the pen in 2D, because it would only yield one variable.

Therefore, the pen also emits an infra-red pulse of light, concurrently with its ultrasound-pulse. That way, the receiver can first receive the IR pulse, after which it measures two time-delays… Resulting in 2D positioning.

While the receiver has a battery that recharges through the USB connection – and which took 2 hours and 45 minutes for a full charge – the pen itself does not. It only has two small button-batteries that cannot be recharged, and which I needed to replace, before I could retest everything and be sure it still works.


Now, an error message which appears, that is similar to an error message reported on the site of the software-project, and which was reported as fixed. Fortunately however, the emergence of this error message does not seem to impede the use of the generated files:


dirk@Klystron:~$ cd ~/Documents/Phoenix/Pegasus/test
dirk@Klystron:~/Documents/Phoenix/Pegasus/test$ kde-mv * trash:/
dirk@Klystron:~/Documents/Phoenix/Pegasus/test$ m210 dump >notes
dirk@Klystron:~/Documents/Phoenix/Pegasus/test$ m210 convert <notes
m210: error: failed to read note head: unexpected end-of-file
error: convert failed
dirk@Klystron:~/Documents/Phoenix/Pegasus/test$ ls -l
total 20
-rw-r--r-- 1 dirk dirk 6887 Feb 21 09:44 m210_note_1.svg
-rw-r--r-- 1 dirk dirk 7091 Feb 21 09:44 m210_note_2.svg
-rw-r--r-- 1 dirk dirk 3906 Feb 21 09:44 notes




The main problem here with the OCR, is that ‘gImageReader‘ expects printed text. I do not know of Linux-based OCR-software, with a special setting for handwriting…


BTW: The batteries in the receiver of this Digital Pen, have always had an unreasonably high rate of self-discharge. It was already like that from the first day I had it.

I suspect this was due, to the device having been stored for a long time – before my purchase – with the battery completely dead. This is usually not good for a rechargeable battery.

But, now that I have taken it out of storage, the problem can only have gotten worse.

A full charge requires about 3 hours, but even after just having put it on the shelf for one day, I need to charge it again for an hour.

I will hope, that if I keep recharging it consistently, the problem may become less acute. It is still important, that I not leave it plugged in for the duration.


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6 thoughts on “IRISNotes Digital Pen”

  1. Possible to replace the battery in the pen for Irisnotes Air 3?
    I see no way to open the tube.

    After 18 hours of charging the pen transmits to the receiver only when the charging cable is connected. So i’m quite sure that the battery no longer takes a charge.

    1. I’m afraid that I cannot give you a very useful answer to that because the exact version of Irisnotes that I was basing my postings on, was an earlier version. What I found was that on my pen, at the end opposite to where the writing-point is, there is an almost imperceptible seem to this (rounded) opposing tip, which in turn can be twisted off – gently once found.

      It was because of disappointment in the ability of my Irisnotes’ batteries to hold a charge, that I lost all interest in using it. The pen takes two button-batteries that cannot be recharged (but which need to be replaced annually, even when the pen was not used), and moreover, the rechargeable battery in the sensor was losing its charge within a few days, of not being used.

      Don’t try to force the pen ‘open’, until you’ve found a harmless way to open it.


    2. Hi Doyle,
      Have you been able to replace the battery?
      I have the same problem and service has informed that there isn’t any support from their side.
      Thanks in advance

      1. First of all, my name is Dirk and not Doyle.

        And, because there was no way to replace the rechargeable battery inside the sensor unit, I’ve just stopped using the pen. On my pen, the battery inside the actual pen, has always been easy to replace.


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