Friday, May 27, 2005

Sharp Zaurus

It's time I wrote something about this fabulous geek toy.

But let me start off by telling the world what an outrageous hypocrite my wife is.

Um...where was I. Oh yes, I am standing on a packed morning train to Tokyo, barely able to breathe, typing this email on my computer. Can't be that squashed if there's room to use a laptop, right? Wrong. This computer is PDA-sized. Well, that's not so exciting either - PDAs are old news. The Zaurus is indeed a PDA, but an extemely versatile and powerful one. It has a clamshell design, with full keyboard (like a mini laptop).

The (touch-sensitive, extremely bright and clear) screen also swivels round and folds flat, turning it into a "palm" form-factor PDA. But most importantly, it runs linux with the OS stored on flash memory, so it is fully customisable, there is a lot of free software and an active group of users and developers working with it. There are on-board java and C compilers available for it - I used it to learn a little java and wrote a simple kanji flashcard application for my own use.

Mine gets used mostly for email/web (PHS card for mobile internet access, and wifi when available), mp3 player, Japanese learning/dictionary, writing LaTeX papers and presentations (and reading pdf files) while travelling. It can even drive a projector directly, but generally I make a pdf file and transfer it to a more powerful PC. I took it to the EGU in Vienna recently, where everyone else was lugging around a laptop or queueing up for public terminals. Its 8h battery life gives a proper day's use or more without having to search out power sockets. It is fully bilingual in Japanese and English, with lots of learning tools (people who have no interest in Japanese can easily convert it to pure English, and if you buy it off an importer like Dynamism or Conics they will do that for you, and look after the return-to-Japan warranty).

Back to my wife and her hypocrisy. Well, I got the then top-of-the-range SL-C860 last year. She kept telling me how crap it was, how it always needed rebooting and never did anything useful. I must be fair and point out that she does most of the linux sysadminning (we have a stable of Macs with OSX too, both at work and at home) so did usually see it at its worst. But still, it was't that bad.

Last week she got the new SL-C3000 (with 4GB internal hard disk). She hasn't put it down since, and is complaining that an 8h battery life doesn't give her a full day's use!


Anonymous said...

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Alphasmart Dana review

EliRabett said...

About ten years ago I had a small HP that size which could do simple stuff, but it was really handy.