Some Zaurus Notes

Well, not so far ago my second NanoNote started to show too intensively that it is mechanically weared off. It is not too nice for me because I have used it as my main pocket computer. It have had a lot of limitations (a useless suspend mode, a small screen, a limited memory – and thus no X11, a bit limited CPU speed and an effective but limited OpenWRT operating system) but it has been small and easy to use (including connections to Linux machines, a Git use and so). Anyway, I have used the NanoNote very often for many tasks (for notetaking, as a PIM tool, as a small Octave/Gnuplot station, as a ebook reader and as a music player).

Now I have to find a replacement. It looked as an easy task (I have a nice collection of a PDA hardware) but I easily find that is is not so simple. But that might be a topic of one of future posts. Finally, I have decided to put my Zauri to a real work.
Finally I have selected the SL-C760. I have access to a SL-C3200 (the latest and the best one, with the 6 GB hard drive) and to a 6000N (the large PDA with the biggest screen of all Zauri). The 760 is the most limited from these three machines. But it is also the lightest and has the longest battery life due to the smaller screen and no harddisk. And it is white so it fits my WikiReader and my Pebble Smartwatch 😉

The Zaurus has few advantages over the NanoNote. The first one is its build quality (of course, it was much more expensive and it is also “Made in Japan”!). The second is more powerfull hardware: the 400 MHz ARM CPU is noticeably faster than the 336 MHz MIPS-compatible CPU of the NanoNote. And two time bigger memory is even more important. The screen is 640×480 versus (320×240). And it has a touchscreen. It has proper sleep mose (it can survive weeks in suspend), too. And two card slots: a CompactFlash and a SD (they can accept cards up to 1 GB).

But there are many areas where the NanoNote clearly wins:

  • a MiniUSB connector for both USB networking and for charging; the 760 has a propietary charger and a serial port (and no USB!)
  • internal storage: 2 GB vs 128 MB
  • card slot limits: 32 GB (possibly more) vs just 2x 1 GB
  • a size: even the 760 is much bigger
  • a software support: there are modern linux distribution for the Zaurus but they break compatibility with older software and drivers so I use the Cacko ROM (from 2008); thus I have a very ancient WiFi support, no security, no Octave, no modern/working Vim and so
  • an internal speaker and microphone, the 760 has none of them, thus headphones are mandatory

Ben NanoNote vs Zaurus SL-C7600

Anyway, I started to use the Zaurus. Basic notetaking works withthe ZEditor or with the local Word clone. To be honest the only big disadvantage of the ZEditor is a lack of a syntax highlighting.
E-book reading is easy, too: there is the famous FBReader (foreign characters are supported without issues!). The Gnuplot is available but it needs a strange GUI tool for displaying of graphs. One can find a loopback images with the GCC and the teTeX and put them onto a SD card (they can be mounted and used simultagenously, by the way). Both are old and limited but basic stuff works (the basic LaTeX styles for English documents, and compiling of simple command-line programs). A working music player is also available (the GTK on the NanoNote is much better, though). There is even a modern RSS reader (Zocalo) and an Opera WWW browser (it’s prehistoric, but it is still a bit more usefull than the Links on the NanoNote). I also use a ZSafe password manager here. I actually use no such thing on my NanoNote (just a gpg-encrypted spreadsheet file) and I kept one Palm III device alive just for this purpose. Honestly, I still use it as a backup (and it isn’t a Palm III but it’s a TRGpro clone).

There are two main problems: unavailability of the Octave (an old version is in repositories but it refuses to work for me) and an unavailability of the Git versioning system. The third (a less important) thing is a synchronisation of todo/calendar data. I can’t find the “QTopiaDesktop” thing to test it. A non-working e-malil client (it is just too old) is a minor issue for me.

I will se if I’m able to use the Zaurus for a longer period of time… At least, it is already proven that I’m able to write on the 760’s keyboard relatively fast and fairly comfortably (it has much more keys than the NanoNote so there are less compromises ans complicated key combinations).

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Some Zaurus Notes