I spent much of the week so far trying to use OpenZaurus 3.5.2 on my
Zaurus 5500. It is not a total failure, and I may well succeed on
some later version of the software, but unless I get better answers to
my application questions, I’m going to wipe it and go back to the TKC
My Zaurus history
I’ve owned two pda’s, both palm-os based. I was sync’ing my calendar
and address book, but mainly using them for reading ebooks, which I
find a surprisingly good technology for how few people bother using
it. It removes your dependance on the font size selected by the
publisher and on the lighting conditions selected by the public
transportation system, doctors waiting rooms, and bars and
restaurants. It also make reading in bed much more comfortable, since
you aren’t holding up a heavy book, and you don’t have to turn
anything off when you decide to stop reading and go to sleep.
Last Spring, I decided to buy a Zaurus, for several reasons:
- I was temporarily employed, and hence had a better cash flow
situation than usual for the last few years.
- The pilot-link sync via usb had gotten flaky on my linux box for
- I knew that newer PDA’s than my Visor Prism had better screens for
reading in sunlight, and I was attempting to do that while waiting for
the bus to take me home from the job.
- I thought it would be fun to have recording capability on a
The Sharp ROM
Out-of-the-box, the Zaurus was completely unusable with either my
Debian Linux box or my old, unloved Windows 98 laptop. It doesn’t
come with the console program installed, and I was unable to set up a
link to the linux box without being able to use a console on the
Zaurus. The software on the CDROM just refused to install on the
On the bright side, the one thing I did get working was the recording
So I went to the store and bought a CF card, and eventually figured
out how to flash the newer Sharp ROM, and install various apps,
including the console.
I also upgraded the kernel on my desktop, which made it easier to get
usbnet working, and to connect the Zaurus to the linux box. (This
caused the flakiness of my root hard drive to become more critical,
and led to lots of other frustrating work, but that’s another story.)
I got writer’s block at this point and left
this entry for several weeks. Then I responded to a post on WOYP from
someone who knows nothing about linux and was pleasantly surprised to
find that everything she tried worked out of the box. This inspired
me to tell the rest of the story, and I’m including part of that post here.
eventually acquired a CF WIFI card, I could surf the web at my favorite
bar (Cambridge Brewing Company, for locals or travelers to the Boston
However, the sound recorder no longer worked at all, and when I
acquired the pockettop IR keyboard, the sideways mode worked really
badly. I spent some time using theKompany ROM, and bought the tKcvox
sound recorder program, which works but uses some proprietary format
that won’t play on anything else, so it isn’t very much use to me.
(They have a program that converts it to something normal that runs
only on Windows and costs money, so I haven’t bought it.) TheKompany
ROM sideways is better than the Sharp, but still pretty clumsy.
So I’m currently running version 3.5.2 of OpenZaurus, with most of the
applications installed to the SD card (another purchase, so that I’d
have one and still be able to use the camera). The sideways mode is
much better, reading works quite well, and it mounts all my cards.
There isn’t a sound recording app that works, but I’ve managed to
record something from the command line and play it back at two
different wrong speeds, so I’m sure it’s a soluble problem. I’ll
probably reinstall everything when 3.5.3 comes out, and see if that
fixes the sound problem, and if not do some more twiddling to see if
I can make my command line solution work.
I think the Zaurus is a wonderful idea, and the hardware is really good.
It’s a pity that the commercial software is so bad, and that the Open
Source community doesn’t seem quite large enough to support the amount
of software and hardware that’s out there.