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).

Some Zaurus Notes

Sharp Zaurus SL-6000N

Well, I got this thing before some time but I didn’t find time to write something about it (it’s the one on the left). It was the last one in Pulster‘s stocks ;-)

Sharp Zaurus SL-6000N

It’s the biggest Linux-based Zaurus and also probably one of the biggest PDAs. The hardware is similar to other Zauri but it has a more traditional PDA layout – landscape screen (4+”, $480×640) and a keyboard under the screen – it is hidden under sliding panel with controls. Even being pretty heavy it is still very easy to hold and use. Actually I got it for few trips as it is nice for reading (with the FBReader), taking notes or playing music (but one can compile programs or edit and compile LaTeX documents or even edit DOC and XLS files on it, if necessary).

And it also looks very vell in its leather case (Piel Frama one).

A note: if the 6000N’s display looks to be too dim, it is because I use lowest level of backlight (it’s enough for normal use but it looks bad under the camera flash). The NanoNote (the black clamshell thing in the reight of picture) has only one backligh level.

Sharp Zaurus SL-6000N

Just for fun

I am still dreaming about a Ben NanoNote connected to a serial GPS. I have both ingrediences (a GPS module and the NanoNote) and the only think to do is a soldering of three cables. But I didn’t do anything in this direction for more than two years. So at least I have taken my NanoNote to my car to make some pictures of the NanoNote running the NanoMap software.

NanoNote + NanoMap in car

Just for fun

Sharp Zaurus SL-C760 and Zocalo

For some time I have been playing with a new toy: a white Sharp Zaurus SL-C760 (it’s the white one which is on the right).

Ben NanoNote vs Zaurus SL-C7600

It is slightly smaller and lighter notebook-style PDA than my SL-C3200 but it is still larger than the Ben NanoNote (the NanoNote is still my main pocket computer – I use other devices mostly as toys).

I was somewhat surprised that someone is still actively developing software for the Zaurus. There are nice tools, for example the December image viewer and the Zocalo RSS reader.

Zocalo RSS Reader

I still use the console-based SnowNews RSS reader on my NanoNote. The Zocalo runs in the Zaurus GUI (it’s based on the Qt toolkit) and it of course looks better. It is also optimised for the hardware controls of the Zaurus. Actually it is very comfortable to use the Zocalo both in landscape and portrait modes of the convertible Zaurus screen. The only problem is that I didn’t find a way how to open article in WWW browser without use of GUI icon (maybe there is a shortcut for this operation but I didn’t find it, yet).

Snownews on Ben Nanonote - specific feed

I use this Zaurus only sometimes and a RSS reader and the FBreader are the most used applications. Of course the Zaurus can be used for more tasks. There is a (rather simple) word processor and a spreadsheet and the TeX and the Gnuplot are also available, for example.

The main limitation of my machine is the wireless access (there is no build-in WiFi chip – one has to use a PCMCIA card – and wireless-related software is old) and very old WWW browsers. So the online access is insecure and the only practical use of the WiFi is access to RSS news and public WWW sites.

Sharp Zaurus SL-C760 and Zocalo

NanoNote vs Zaurus

My collection also includes the Sharp Zaurus SL-C3200 pocket computer. It’s Linux pocket computer (it uses the Qtopia for the GUI) and it is quite nice.

This machine is no longer produced (about 2008 the Sharp abandonet its line of Linux handhelds). It is somewhat similar to the NanoNote, but not too much. It’s more sophisticated (it has a touchscreen, a convertible screen – it can be used in a tablet mode, it has a full SD slot and a PCMCIA slot and it also has an infrared interface). The building quality and the used materials are better that these used in the NanoNote (it was of course much more expensive and even today an used Zaurus costs at least two times more than the new Nano). Of course it is somewhat bigger and heavier.

NanoNote vs Zaurus

The hardware of the Zaurus is still somewhat better than NanoNote’s: RAM 64 MB, 6 GB harddisk (and 128 MB of a fash memory), 640×480 screen and 416 MHz ARM CPU. It also has an USB host support. It also has a proper suspend mode – it can survive weaak or more on battery (as you probably know, the NanoNote can’t do this – it must be turned off when not used).

The problem of this machine is that it is less or more abandoned today: the software is mostly not developed (I use the Cacko ROM which is from about 2008) so there is a limited support for new pheripherals and services (for example I’m not able to make work my CompactFlash WiFi cart and use of SD card bigger than 1 GB causes system errors).
Also some pieces of software, that were ported to the Zaurus, are no longer available (LaTeX distribution, for example) and it is sometimes quite hard to compile them.

Anyway, it still is a usefull pocket computer. It can be used for light office work (it has onboard – but limited – a word processor and a spreadsheet), as a PDA, e-book readed (the FBReader is of course available) and there are some other applications and games. The gcc is still available so light software development is also possible here.

Of course, I have no plans to replace my NanoNote by this machine.

NanoNote vs Zaurus

Weatherman: weather from command line

I have found a nice piece of software that can provide current weather data and nice forecast for 7 days from command line. It is the Weatherman and it is a bash script which uses data from the WeatherBug.com. Of course it uses external program (the curl) for the actual download of the data.

Trees on Smrk 3

The use is very simple:

weatherman -x budapest,hungary                    

Extended Forecast for budapest, Hungary

TUE       2 C  50% Chance of Light Snow    -2 C  windy
WED       1 C  Mostly Cloudy               -2 C  Mostly Cloudy
THU       4 C  30% Chance of Frozen Mix    -1 C  50% Chance of Rain
FRI       4 C  Rain                        -1 C  Mostly Cloudy
SAT       6 C  Partly Cloudy               -1 C  Rain
SUN       6 C  Rain                         0 C  windy
MON       9 C  Partly Cloudy

Data provided by WeatherBug.com

If the -x is not used then the current situation is shown:

Current Conditions for budapest, Hungary
Reported by Budapest (Ferihegy) @ Mar 25, 2013 9:30 PM

Temp: -2 C
Today: 50% Chance of Light Snow
Tonight: windy

High: 2 C          Wind Speed: NNE 13    Rain: 0.00mm
Low: -2 C          Gust: E 29            Rain/Month: 0.00mm
Feels Like: -6 C   Avg Wind: NNE 13      Sunrise: 5:36 AM
Humidity: 100%     Pressure: 1007.12mb   Sunset: 6:02 PM
Dew Point: -2 C                          Moonphase: Full

Data provided by WeatherBug.com

One can save the default site with the -S parameter. An it is possible to customize the output (the details can be found in the manual page).

I think that it’s a very nice tool.

Weatherman: weather from command line

Czech trains vs Ben NanoNote WiFi

I only have used the WiFi connection on the Ostrava-Prague railway so far. There are three companies but I have personal experience only with tho of them.

The setup for Czech Railways:

iwconfig eth0 mode Managed
iwconfig eth0 essid CDWiFi

echo "nameserver `udhcpc |grep dns |grep server |cut -d' ' -f5`">/etc/resolv.conf

The last line is needed to fix DNS problems on my setup (it may be unnecessary on your).

The setup for the RegioJet:

iwconfig eth0 mode Managed
iwconfig eth0 essid ZLUTY
echo "nameserver `udhcpc |grep dns |grep server |cut -d' ' -f5`">/etc/resolv.conf

Of course you have to have the WiFi card for your Ben to be able use these settings…

Czech trains vs Ben NanoNote WiFi