Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

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Seeing a bash shell on a PDA...

... is a little disconcerting. Fun, but disconcerting.

autopope and I had heard that the Sharp Zaurus Linux-based PDA was being sold in the US for round about half what it costs in the UK. As the much rumoured OS-X sysnchronisation tools seem to be just around the corner, the Worldcon seemed to be an appropriate time to invest in some interesting technology, especially at the new US price of about $350 or so. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley being what it is, the high geekiness rating of the Zaurus meant that they had nearly vanished from the shelves, making finding the devices a quest worthy of one of John Kovalic's characters...

Fry's was a dead loss (and we tried three or four different sites) - though entertaining as a point of geek pilgrimage. Their stock computers kept saying that they had stock, but there was no sign of hardware beyond a set of mainly dysfunctional display devices. autopope tracked down one at a branch of Goodguys, and they seemed to have more in other branches - especially as their prices were even lower, as they were stopping selling PDAs completely. So on the way to the airport to fly back to the UK, ocean_song's bargaining skills helped me pick up an ex-demo device for $150...

Since then I've faced a struggle to connect it to Windows 2000, though finally succeeding after a complete reinstall of the Zaurus Windows software (which interestingly uses PPP over USB to connect and handle synchronisation). I've also upgraded the device's ROMs, and installed what I feel were essential pieces of software that aren't included in the default system - including a terminal and a file explorer. I am surprised that it runs everything as root - which does make security a bit of an issue, but at least that's better than single user mode. GUI-wise there's no X - instead it uses a UI developed by Trolltech, and based on a mobile version of the QT libraries. It feels a bit like a cut down KDE, but is fast, clean and above all easy to use and learn, which is important in a PDA.

At this point I douubt that it will replace my Pocket PC HP Jornada PDA (purely on grounds of Outlook integration with home and work systems), but it's an interesting experimental device, and I will keep monitoring the various Zaurus software sites for useful software - including, hopefully, support for my WLAN cards.

More to come as I get to grips with it - especially if the Mac OS X integration ever happens...
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