[TriLUG] Re: Review: Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (a Linux PDA)
vincent at xaymaca.com
Tue Apr 2 09:54:28 EST 2002
Very cool review. I am trying to justify getting one here at work.
Looks like this PDA is going to take off which is good but also means
we may not see the usual price drop happening too soon. I was debating
getting Zaurus vs. Palm powered i300 Sprint Phone. I think that debate
is over for me. I definitely want the SL-5500.
David A. Cafaro wrote:
> Ok, I've been playing with my new Zaurus SL-5500 since last Thursday and
> I just wanted to pass along my impressions so far:
> First off I have to say this is the coolest little gadget since sliced
> bread! I have lived with a Palm IIIx for almost 3 years as my stead
> fast companion, but this device just blows my mind on it's potential.
> Second off I have to say that the Zaurus is far from perfect, there are
> gotchas a plenty which I will elaborate on later.
> The PDA - Hardware:
> Hmm, best description of this PDA, ok simple, its a Linux laptop that
> fits in one hand. Hardware wise it's pretty well set:
> * 206MHz ARM processor, seems to hold up well, only lost one application
> (playing MP3's, with text editor open, terminal window open, file
> browser open, Hancom Word open, and address book open, caused the MP3
> player to close, oh well, just closed the text editor and started the
> MP3's again)
> * 64MB Ram, 16MB ROM, the OS loads out of ROM into RAM so you have about
> 24MB of free "Memory" and 32 MB of free "Storage" with the OS using the
> * Compact Flash type two slot which excepts CF memory cards (officially
> up to 384MB, un-officially a lot more), Micro-drives (yes IBM 1GB
> micro-drives have been reported running, as well as Iomega CF drives),
> LAN cards, WLAN cards, wireless modem cards, and more to come.
> * Secure Digital Card slot which also excepts Multi-Media Cards (though
> not officially) for memory (up to 128MB right now) and eventually other
> types (bluetooth in the works).
> * IR port which you can beam to another Zaurus as well as other PDA
> types. So far I have tested it with my Palm IIIx and it seemed to
> transfer pretty well (thank goodness, otherwise migration would have
> sucked). The IR port is on the side which is a little odd for me, but
> so far has worked out real well when transmitting stuff from my palm.
> * Stereo out jack for headphones (doesn't include headphones). Decent
> sound, though I would prefer better bass sound (probably MP3 issue,
> ripped the MP3's to 64bit so I could fit one CD onto the Zaurus)
> * Pizo Speaker which does a good job of making beeps (a full fledged
> speaker would have been nice).
> * Mono line in for a microphone (again sold separately).
> * Stylus which has plastic tips but a metal body, decent feel.
> * 240x320x16 Color TFT Touch screen with a back-light, good brightness,
> pretty easy to see in general lighting conditions. A little hard to
> read in full sun-light outside, and very easy to read in the dark.
> Quality is great, jpegs look great!
> * Front buttons all have a good feel to them, and the rocker/select
> button is very nice, you can navigate through menus, selection, etc by
> pressing the rocker up, down, left, right, and select items with center
> * Slide out Qwerty Keyboard - Very nice feature, though I'm still
> getting used to it. It is nice to be able to type away, but I have to
> train my self to use the little keys. The keys have a good feel to
> them, though it would have been nice if they were more rubbery so the
> stylus could be used to type with them. The keyboard is laid out more
> for PIM usage than for Linux console usage, but you can access the
> CTRL-C, pipe and other keys through key combinations.
> * Li-Ion Battery seems to hold out well. I haven't really done a run
> test to see how long it lasts, but I'm planning on getting a charger and
> dock for the office as well as the one at home. I have doubts that
> under serious use (I commute by train so 1hr of MP3 playing in the
> morning and 1 hr in the evening, plus general office use) will probably
> drain the battery before I make it home at the end of the day. Better
> safe than sorry, just a lot different from the month long battery use I
> got out of my Palm IIIx.
> The PDA - Software:
> Software wise this thing covers all the basics. Navigation is very easy,
> and everything is clear and uncluttered. There are five major groups:
> Apps, Games, Jeode (java apps), Settings, and Documents (all files that
> aren't applications). You can navigate to each very easily with the
> buttons on the front of the Zaurus, or using the touch screen. The menu
> bar at the bottom of the screen gives you easy access to time, volume
> control, battery status, external card status, network status,
> application switching, and a start button. Again, it's all laid out to
> make it pretty easy to get around and do stuff, no confusion.
> * Address book - Can store just about any info you need, lots of fields,
> customizable categories, quick look up using the keyboard (start typing
> the name into the keyboard and it starts matching up a search). I do
> wish it had more customizable fields, though the fields they have cover
> just about everything. Also would like to have the ability to jump to a
> category with one maybe two taps, but instead you have to go three taps
> and a slider bar.
> * Calendar - Covers the basics, events, categories, notes, alarms,
> repeat event etc. Unfortunately you can only set the alarm to go of XXX
> number of minutes, there is no day/month/year choice (How am I going to
> know when birthdays are coming?). Also I have yet to figure out how to
> delete an event that is a yearly recurring on the PDA. Every time I try
> to delete one it says ok, but the event is still there. The only way I
> have been able to get rid of a repeating event is to delete on the
> desktop software and sync with the PDA. Urgghhhh
> * Notes - Think Gedit but even more basic, but it works nice.
> * Email - I haven't used this yet, haven't purchased a network card for
> the Z yet. And I have no need to sync with my real email app. on the
> desktop. It's supposed to support pop, imap, smtp.
> * Hancom PDA office - this is supposed to let you Read and Write MS
> Office Documents such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I haven't really
> played with this much (I don't do office stuff often), but Hancom Word
> seemed to be layed out nice, and the text was easy enough to read.
> * Input Devices - You can input with an on-screen keyboard, a pick
> keyboard, or handwriting recognition. The handwriting recognition is
> pretty good, I just have to un-teach myself Palm Grafiti.
> * Other Apps include CityTime (program in your favorite city's to get
> their local time quick), Opera (haven't played with that yet), Media
> Player (MP3's and Mpeg1 movie playback, very nice, I love this!), Todo
> List (basic todo list..), A few games (asteroids, go, mindbreaker,
> etc... all look great), Java App support (not much written in this
> department yet, though there are several in the pipe).
> * Some software that I have downloaded and installed are a FileManager
> (looks a little like gmc from gnome), and a terminal window (hey it's
> Linux I need my command line). There are other apps as well like an
> http server, OpenSSH, and others, but I just haven't needed them yet.
> There isn't nearly as much software out there as for Palm or PocketPC,
> but hopefully that will change soon. I for one have two programs I plan
> on writing my self, a password manager and some kind of firewall (more
> on firewall later).
> The Sync software:
> - The Good
> The Zaurus comes with two kinds of sync software: Qtopia Desktop and
> intellisync. The intellisync is for syncing with MS Outlook, and since
> I don't run outlook I can't tell you anything about that. Now the
> Qtopia Desktop I do run, it's basically the same thing as Palms Desktop
> software. I had no trouble setting it up with Windows 2k, I followed
> the directions and it hooked up no problem. Setting up the Linux
> version was a little more difficult. The Windows version comes with the
> Zaurus on CD, the Linux version I had to download from Trolltech. They
> screwed up and put the Win32 install instructions in the .tgz file
> instead of the Linux instructions so I had to go download an older
> version to get the install directions. Mandrake 8.2, almost recognized
> the Zaurus from scratch. When you plug in the Zaurus it is recognized
> as a USB device, and Mandrake tries to load the driver for it.
> Unfortunately it loads the wrong driver. Messing around with
> modules.usbmap I changed a couple of values for the usbdnet driver and
> now Mandrake loads up the correct driver. Adding an ifcfg-usb0 file in
> the network-scripts directory, and I have a hotplugable interface to my
> Z. The Qtopia Desktop hooked up no problem and I was able to sync from
> the Zaurus to My Linux desktop no problem.
> - The Bad
> The Qtopia Desktop software is flaky. I would not recommend this setup
> to a novice PDA user. It is possible that it is me coming out of a Palm
> based world, but the software doesn't seem to work the way I would
> expect it too when syncing. I have twice lost significant amounts of
> address entries or calendar entries do to syncing issues. I have found
> that the only way I can reliably enter stuff is to leave the sync
> software on "PDA overrides Desktop". When entering in lot's of data in
> the Desktop side I then manually switch it to "Desktop overrides PDA" do
> a sync and then back to "PDA overrides Desktop". The issues mostly
> happens when you enter stuff in on the desktop or change things on the
> desktop while at the same time there are similar entries on the PDA. It
> doesn't handle this well. For this reason I would say this setup is not
> for the general consumer, only people who know how to be careful should
> use it. The Intellisync software may be better, but again I haven't
> tested this. The Linux version seems to be a little better, but I'm
> still playing around with it. The Linux version I have was just
> released this weekend (it's listed as a Beta version).
> The Misc issues:
> There is one very major security issue. The version of Linux that the
> Zaurus runs does not come with support for IPtables or IPchains. This
> wouldn't be horrible (they actually disable a lot for the normal daemons
> that are problems) except for one screw-up. Someone decided to use FTP
> as the syncing softwares conduit, and even better it logs in as root
> with no password! So the qpe daemon (which is the Zaurus GUI interface)
> also has an ftp daemon running on port 4242 with root login and no
> password, and it is bound to all ports, all ip addresses!! The Zaurus
> comes with tcpwrappers, but qpe doesn't run through that. So if you
> hook the Zaurus up to a network, root file read/write access is
> available to all. You can set a root password which at least puts a
> password into the mix, but reports are that it kills the sync ability (I
> haven't investigated this yet). At the moment this isn't a terrible
> issue for me, I'm using my Zaurus as a PDA with-out Internet/external
> network connection for now. But, since I plan on purchasing a network
> card for it, I also plan on figuring out someway to firewall this thing
> off from the outside world.
> The Summary:
> The Zaurus is a great hardware device with some minor and major software
> issues. I would definitely recommend this device to Linux and computer
> savvy people who want a very very flexible PDA, WITH warnings about the
> potential issues. Most of these issues can be avoided with some care.
> This is a new product, and like many new products it has bugs. I hope
> these bugs will be fixed quick (and given the open source nature of the
> device, this should be possible), it would be a shame for a couple of
> stupid mistakes to ruin the Zaurus potential. I'm happy with my
> purchase,and look forward to putting this little beast to some hardcore
> sysadmin/programming work!
> David Cafaro
> Systems Admin/Programmer
> dac at cafaro.net
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