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Editor's Note: A Tux in the Hand

May 27, 2005, 23:30 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I bought a PDA this week. I got it on eBay from a reputable vendor, but unfortunately, it has a hardware problem and I had to return it. They're going to replace it with the same model, so I should have a working PDA in my hands in a few days.

Before I go any further, I should tell you that this was not a Zaurus device.

The reasons I did not get a Zaurus are a bit subjective, but important to me. None of the existing Zaurus devices has integrated WiFi, except for the latest model, the 6000-SL, which is only available outside the US. But, with it going $799 retail and more than that on eBay, this machine was not going to be mine. I was looking for something in the $200-$300 range.

I agonized over this one for several weeks, because in terms of a device, the Zaurus is one darned nifty machine. I particularly like the landscape feature on their screens, which gives you 640 width resolution--a very nice feature for someone who likes to connect remotely and push talkbacks through and go look for more news. The built-in keyboard is a plus, too. I hated Graffiti when I had to use it on my old Palm III.

And, let's not forget it runs Linux. I test drove a Zaurus once at a LinuxWorld, and man, was it cool to bring up the CLI and play around with the tools.

I did find some deals on Zaurus 5500-5600s out on the Internet, but my problem with these perfectly worthy PDAs was not what they ran, nor how they functioned. I was worried about buying a device that was essentially discontinued. Plus, even though you can add CompactFlash WiFi cards to the 5000 line, the added cost was going to push the device out of my price range.

Did having a discontinued machine really need to be the deal-breaker? Yes, in my case, it did. While I have had good luck with PDAs up until now, my wife and kids have a habit of killing theirs. So, support is something I like to have around for PDAs. A PC I can crack open and start swapping parts. PDAs are out of my ken.

Then there were the Pockt PCs. Sleek, integrated everything, loads of apps--if only they weren't running that Windows operating system. That was enough of a reason for me.

So, what did I settle on? A Palm Tungsten C. It had the WiFi and the keyboard, and I know my way around Palms. It's still running the Palm OS, but I am willing to overlook my chauvanism for Linux to get the tools I need. Plus, I can get it to talk to my Linux work machine, so I'll be set there.

Mind you, this was all before Nokia made their announcement about their Internet machine, which ticked me off. That's always the way, isn't it? Buy one machine and then the new flashier models come out.

And, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for PalmOne, because of their committment to Linux. While neither my machine nor the new LifeDrive have Linux on board, I feel a great sense of anticipation for a company that is eventually going to move to Linux. So, my plan is, get the used Tungsten C now and then upgrade to a new Palm/Linux device later.

(Just don't tell my wife; she's the one who sets the price ranges.)

Linux on PDAs is an exciting proposition, and not just for me, the geek that desperately needs an organizer. Getting Linux out there on handhelds will demonstrate to that many more people that Linux is a viable platform and will get them to start thinking about Linux on more traditional (read: PC) platforms.

Future world domination, as Linus Torvalds joked, only this time in the Palm of your hand.

[Program Note: Because of the Memorial Day holiday weekend here in the US, news coverage on Monday, May 30, will follow the weekend schedule. Normal coverage will resume on Tuesday May 31. -BKP]