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$99 Linux Handheld with WiFi for Instant Messaging

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the never-offline dept.

Handhelds 194

An anonymous reader writes " has an interesting write up about the new Aeronix Zipit instant messenger appliance. It is intended to free up a family PC from IM chatting teens. From the article: "the Zipit is based on a Cirrus EP7312-CR-90, an SoC (system-on-chip) with an ARM720T core that clocks up to 90MHz. This chip is supported by several Linux distributions, including FSMLabs's real-time RTLinux." At $99 (cheaper than many textbooks and graphing calculators) it could even be good for classrooms. With that 802.11b WiFi, I think this might be a perfect note-taking computer for students in lectures. "

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fp (0, Offtopic)

notwoohoo (685337) | about 9 years ago | (#13086930)


Re:fp (0, Offtopic)

Charles Jo (862028) | about 9 years ago | (#13086943)

Congrats. Your fortunes have now changed for the better. Expect great things.

Re:fp (0, Offtopic)

Uber Banker (655221) | about 9 years ago | (#13087048)

In reply to your journal entry, its probably because you have the ability to think somewhat independently, have a heathly streak of pessimism, and may speak up against the /. groupthink where it is clearly wrong.

As any team or community increases its diversity, its value-added in any area decreases if all members like to be seen to have their say. That is the case of Slashdot.

Re:fp (1)

Charles Jo (862028) | about 9 years ago | (#13087141)

Hehehe. I generally enjoy the /. crowd, desite groupthink, so that is why on my journal I was wondering why the bad karma.

Re:fp (0, Offtopic)

Uber Banker (655221) | about 9 years ago | (#13087251)

Haha, it seems on seeing my post someone went and modded my others of the week (not that they were very meangingful)! Karma is easily lost and gained, I've gone from 'Bad' to 'Excellent' too many times to recount, and have given up caring.

Re:fp (-1, Troll)

Uber Banker (655221) | about 9 years ago | (#13086985)

Time has awoken. The VORTEX to fpdom haS opened, and j00 HAVE not FAILED at life. Congralulations at entering the kindgom of the Community of Logged in Trolls.

Note-taking (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13086940)

Sure, the wifi is cool, but let's not kid ourselves, wifi is compeletely unnecessary for note-taking.

Re:Note-taking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13086953)


Re:Note-taking (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 9 years ago | (#13086989)

That depends whose notes you want to take.

Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087244)

...does it run opensolaris?

is there good existing software for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13086945)

I am curous specifically for programs like Epocrates and other medical software that u can get on other handhelds.

Not During Tests, Though (4, Interesting)

ndansmith (582590) | about 9 years ago | (#13086949)

At $99 (cheaper than many textbooks and graphing calculators) it could even be good for classrooms.

With the new epidemic of cheating via txt, I doubt we will see these little devices in the classrooms for tests.

Re:Not During Tests, Though (1)

fourtyfive (862341) | about 9 years ago | (#13086970)

Shutdown the WIFI AP during the test ;)

Re:Not During Tests, Though (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | about 9 years ago | (#13087086)

What's to stop the students from using an ad-hoc network?

Re:Not During Tests, Though (1)

cortana (588495) | about 9 years ago | (#13087221)

A microwave oven under every desk. :)

Re:Not During Tests, Though (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087303)

Profs never let students have any devices during tests, anyways, unless they're calculators for math classes. I've never written an exam in which the only thing allowed on my desk wasn't a writing instrument and the exam book.

Re:Not During Tests, Though (1)

jcuervo (715139) | about 9 years ago | (#13087573)

Or setting up their own AP (wonder if this thing can do HostAP [] ...)

hmm (4, Interesting)

Capt. Caneyebus (883802) | about 9 years ago | (#13086950)

I think i would rather spend the extra $$ and get something like a treo that has a phone feature, and if i am not mistaken the os on them is linux based. Also there is a wi-fi card for a tungsten palm that can be hacked to work on the Treo 650. But this is pretty cool for people on a budget.

Re:hmm (2, Interesting)

Keruo (771880) | about 9 years ago | (#13086990)

TA mentions audio features so I guess you could use skype to get the phone features working. Sure, the coverage area wouldn't be anything near gsm, but the device wasn't ment to replace phones to begin with.

Re:hmm (1)

maotx (765127) | about 9 years ago | (#13087073)

TA mentions audio features so I guess you could use skype to get the phone features working.

But the device uses an ARM chipset instead of the usual x86. Skype would have to be recompiled to support the ARM chip and while Skype is a great application, the source is not available requiring us to depend on the vendor to recompile it. I would love to have Skype on my Zaurus but the ARM chipset is not supported though there is a scream for it. []

Re:hmm (1)

chrisl456 (699707) | about 9 years ago | (#13087121)

The thing only has a 90Mhz ARM, I don't think Skype would run too well on it. I've seen Skype use 40% - 50% CPU on my 3Ghz P4 laptop.

Actually, I think Skype released or was planning to release Skype for the Zaurus, which did use an ARM...

And another thing - there was no mention of a mic or mic input. So unless they hack that on too...

Re:hmm (1)

Rayder (39469) | about 9 years ago | (#13087278)

I use 32 bits of an AMD 64 at 2 Ghz and skype barely uses 3% of the cpu to work, so something is clearly wrong with your computer.

One of my friends had exactly your same problem and the problems was overheating, the cpu gets so hot that the pentium slows the clock so it can deal with the heat, and thus the cpu usage increases up to your same levels when using skype.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087325)

The early mobile Pentium III chips (Geyserville, I believe they're called) can only run at their rated speed for short period of time. The time depends on the model of CPU and how well the laptop cools the chip, but it's in the range of 10 - 30 minutes. After that time they must step down to low speed or they'll just shut down due to overheating.

Re:hmm (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 9 years ago | (#13087203)

It mentions DAC, so I presume it can only output audio. Besides, as other posters have noted, it's probably unable to run Skype anyway.

Re:hmm (2, Informative)

bodgit (658527) | about 9 years ago | (#13086996)

I think i would rather spend the extra $$ and get something like a treo that has a phone feature, and if i am not mistaken the os on them is linux based. Also there is a wi-fi card for a tungsten palm that can be hacked to work on the Treo 650. But this is pretty cool for people on a budget.

IIRC Treo's run PalmOS.

Re:hmm (2, Interesting)

Capt. Caneyebus (883802) | about 9 years ago | (#13087030)

right, but read this article [] could be on the horizon for them.

Re:hmm (1)

rsrsharma (769904) | about 9 years ago | (#13087134)

The Treo currently runs PalmOS. PalmSource is currently creating a version of PalmOS (named Cobalt, v6.1 I believe) which uses the Linux kernel.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087269)

Palm OS Cobalt (6.x) actually is based on Be. PalmSource has yet to begin their much talked about Linux-based OS. But you're right, the Treo runs Palm OS Cobalt 5.4

I have the Treo, your facts are off (1)

MagicMike (7992) | about 9 years ago | (#13087140)

I love the Treo 650, it really is an awesome device.


The "WiFi" hack made the wifi card work, but only just barely, and it completely destroys the ease of use of the machine because it requires resets and some manual intervention to enable and disable it. For all intents and purposes, its not worth it. Especially since the 650 does cellular data at 3G speeds, so its not a big deal to simply use the net.

Further, PalmOS is headed towards being linux-based (and thank god! Its like OS9 now, with resets instead of bomb icons). In the future then it should be like Mac OSX - easy to use (for its form factor) but rock-solid when it runs 3rd party apps.

At this point in time though, it is most definitely not unix-based and personal experience indicates that there is no memory protection. That's what explains why the Nintendo Emulator (yeah, on my phone, and it works!) crashes the phone frequently when I exit it (luckily the reset only takes 5s, so its worth it...)

you are mistaken (1)

dbug78 (151961) | about 9 years ago | (#13087291)

the Treo runs Palm OS. they are supposedly moving Palm OS to a linux core, but it hasn't happened yet.

Re:hmm (2, Interesting)

nametaken (610866) | about 9 years ago | (#13087404)

If you're REALLY on a budget, there's the 900mhz Motorola IMFree. At the moment it only does AIM, and it's JUST a messenger, but Walmarts have been dropping it to the discount shelves at $15, with the usb base station. The girlfriend and I have them, and we can roam to each others base stations at each house. Someone also developed linux support for them. Really slick for a $15 setup.

Nice but... (5, Insightful)

eth00 (612841) | about 9 years ago | (#13086951)

While it does look like a nice device for chatting I cannot see it doing much more. The idea of taking notes on something that small is impossible for most classes where you are moving pretty fast. I ended up getting a laptop with a full size keyboard so that it would be easier to type.

I am all for little devices running linux but I do not see this exact device being used for anything like textbooks. With a lot schools (high school and college) implementing WIFI it will however be a great distraction from what is being taught...

Re:Nice but... (1)

sykjoke (899173) | about 9 years ago | (#13087126)

'impossible for most classes where you are moving pretty fast' I spent God knows how many years at school and they didn't teach me that much.

Re:Nice but... (1)

starwed (735423) | about 9 years ago | (#13087545)

I'm pretty sure I took notes on a TI-82 once or twice, and this would have been a nice step up from that. ^_^

Cheaper than many text books? (1, Informative)

slavemowgli (585321) | about 9 years ago | (#13086955)

99 bucks is cheaper than *many* text books? Come on. Sure, there are *some* that cost more than that, but not *many*...

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (5, Insightful)

Cait Sith (34507) | about 9 years ago | (#13086972)

You haven't gone to a college bookstore lately have you?

What the hell did you learn in college? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087012)

Underwater basket weaving?

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

oscartheduck (866357) | about 9 years ago | (#13087020)

I just took a couple of classes. Nothing major, just a unix class and an algebra class. My combined textbook cost was over two hundred dollars. So my experience leads me to believe that most textbooks are in fact over a hunred dollars.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

EddWo (180780) | about 9 years ago | (#13087560)

That depends on how many textbooks you bought for each class.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087055)

I assumed they meant an entire semester worth of books; Since we're entering the fall sequence in a few weeks, I went over to the bookstore with Diego to buy all his books, and the entire courseload came to about about US $70.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087104)

you're forgetting thats after they ate all $200 of store credit he had sitting there ;) There was still $70 left. Either that or he is taking one little class.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087154)

No store credit. He's an entering freshman. Books were Universal History (World Civ, I suppose)... book was 35 (three bucks) English III ... 45 for one 35 for the other (7.5 bucks) Chemistry ...200 (18 bucks) Algebra ... 350 (31 bucks) and some course that I can't even come CLOSE to figuring out -- something like philosophy I guess. Two books of about 3 bucks a piece. I'll read the textbook and report back. History and Philology classes are in Spanish; math and chem are english-language textbooks. English books are (obviously) in English.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (0)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 9 years ago | (#13087212)

Or he just shopped creatively:

History 101 requires book A, part 1, $75 new, $50 used
History 102 requires book A, part 2, $75 new, $50 used
publisher of book A also publishes a 'condensed' version without color illustrations, no useless (charts, graphs, maps all remain) pictures, with both parts in one book, for $25 new, $20 used.

Physics 101 requires book B, as well as subscription to online homework system run by publisher of book B. New book B comes with subscription, $120. Used book B is $50, but requires $30 subscription.
publisher provides a complete (and then some, animations, movies, audio recordings, interactive applets for demonstrations) copy of book B online with the $30 subscription, and the labs at school offer nearly unlimited printing (10 pages for a chapter a week doesnt even make a dent)

So, if you're ignorant you paid $270. If you're informed you paid $180. If youre creative you paid $50.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

pmazer (813537) | about 9 years ago | (#13087381)

Please point me to some publishers that do this!

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | about 9 years ago | (#13087136)

Question: Are you in college?

Because my standard books nearly ALL cost 100+$ USD.
And thats AFTER finding the cheapest price online instead of getting ripped off the additional 30% by the local bookstore. (Often used books can come in at under 100, but many of these still are very expensive).

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

isorox (205688) | about 9 years ago | (#13087341)

Must be some wierd american thing. In the UK typical price you'd pay for a undergrad textbook in any subject is £30 (about $50)

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | about 9 years ago | (#13087517)

In the UK typical price you'd pay for a undergrad textbook in any subject is £30 (about $50)

Depends on the course and option you take then. I did my undergrad in the UK, graduated in 2001. In my final year, books averaged £60, about 7 books for the year: courses were based around time series analysis, game theory, finance. These were the standard text books for the subject, add it that photocopying costs for all of the journal articles (though the legal signs above every photocopier said "do not copy copyrighted material" and it all was).

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087378)

LOL! You americans are screwed by corrupt professors.

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

eth00 (612841) | about 9 years ago | (#13087145)

Where did you purchase your textbooks? Most semesters that I take end up costing well over $500 for books with one semester over $800. While it is true you can save some money by purchasing used textbooks they are always changing around the texts so you have to purchase a new version of that $200 book. That being said I would like to see you just try and read one page from a textbook on that little screen, it would take forever as you have to scroll every other sentence. It would also be pretty hard to display any pictures or diagrams, especially those that require color. Laptops are pretty common at most colleges today and with the cost of textbooks if they did start moving to all online textbooks you might as well just use your laptop and save your eyes!

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

bbrack (842686) | about 9 years ago | (#13087208)

FYI, average costs of a new engineering text are~ $160-180

I think I had 1 semester in college where I managed to stay under $500 on books alone...

Oh, and to doubly fuck you over, there is a new edition every 2-3 semesters (whenever the used market gets saturated) that doesn't fix any of the errors, just changes all the problems at the end of the chapter so if you manage to find a previous edition, you also have to borrow someone else's book to do any homework

Re:Cheaper than many text books? (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | about 9 years ago | (#13087262)

I only had 1 book to buy this year. (1st year physics). It cost £50 (~$80). Appeal to academics:
Will you PLEASE stop having required texts that cost so much. Here's what you do:
1) Addison Wesley sends you a sample textbook and asks if you'd like to recommend it as your text, and if not, why not.
2) You write back that you have NO intention of recommending a textbook that costs so much and suggest something reasonable ([Cost of production +£10] +10%).
3) textbook prices plummet (hopefully, if enough universities do it).
Now, whilst you're waiting for the price drop you make sure that your lectures cover everything that will be examined and you make your notes available to anyone who wants them. If people need to check something or see a different explanation they can either a) ask their tutor, that's what tutors are for. b)use one of the (wide but small) selection of textbooks in the library.

Affluent students: don't buy textbooks either, that's just proping the publishing companies up against a price drop.

Looks like a toy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13086960)

It looks fisher pricey. Despite the well-spaced qwery keyboard, I think you can only thumb-type with those hard rubber keys.

Re:Looks like a toy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087310)

I am a Fisher-Price person you insensitive clod!!

I drive a Fisher-Price one-seater and park in a FIsher-Price garage on the 2nd level. The elevator goes ding-ding.

You try typing without any fingers on unbendable arms. A good rubber keyboard is easier (not to mention safer) to jump up and down upon.

Re:Looks like a toy (1)

corngrower (738661) | about 9 years ago | (#13087342)

Because it is ARM based, they were going to call the thing an 'ArmPit'. But marketers thought that name kind of stunk.

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13086963)

Frist psot?

It's a neat little gadget, but ... (2, Interesting)

Slayk (691976) | about 9 years ago | (#13086983)

For $99, this thing is a good way to experiment with embedded linux for those who are interested. I haven't gone out to get one myself, but I've seen one with a serial header soldered on (for flashing the ROM with better linux goodness than what is provided). It's rather small, has a wireless connection, and has decent battery life.

The downside to the whole thing is that the device does not fully conform to the LGPL (there's some issue surrounding linking), but most of what they've used is available []

Re:It's a neat little gadget, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087339)

I don't get the LGPL violation thing:
They are still in violation of the terms of the LGPL for glibc. The Zipit application is statically linked to glibc and no Zipit object file is available for relinking.
But the ability to link proprietary software with LGPL modules is the reason that the LGPL was created in the first place (unlike the original GPL).

Re:It's a neat little gadget, but ... (1)

Slayk (691976) | about 9 years ago | (#13087476)

IIRC, the LGPL requires the distribution of source and object files of the LGPL'd code if the LGPL'd software is statically linked to your software. I believe that the object files are the issue.

What's wrong with paper? (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13087021)

What's wrong with taking notes in class using a pen and paper? If anything, it is probably quicker than trying to use one of these little doodads.

Re:What's wrong with paper? (4, Funny)

NightWulf (672561) | about 9 years ago | (#13087045)

Yeah pens and paper, yeesh gramps why not just ask us to carve it into stone tablets. Get with the times!

Re:What's wrong with paper? (3, Funny)

DoorFrame (22108) | about 9 years ago | (#13087067)

I tie knots in string. I don't yet have access to this chisel technology you speak of.

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

ToasterofDOOM (878240) | about 9 years ago | (#13087224)

String? I tie knots in the tissues of my prey ... and tear strips of hide to lay out in cryptic patterns of shorthand!

Re:What's wrong with paper? (3, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | about 9 years ago | (#13087295)

Arrogant braggart, we have been working to develop knot memory technology for ages!

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

yotto (590067) | about 9 years ago | (#13087085)

Compared to this, yes, pen/paper is better. Compared to a laptop with a keyboard - assuming you can type at least 40-60 wpm and aren't a hunt'n'pecker - pen/paper is horrible.

And as a bonus... (1)

linux_haxor (865561) | about 9 years ago | (#13087099)

ledgiable text! every try to reed an engineers scribbles?

Re:And as a bonus... (1)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13087118)

Yes. Very often. And they're usually quite insightful. I struggle these days with the young engineers who have grown up using their instant messegers and typing like fools. Their typed documents are often more difficult to read than any handwritten documents from older engineers.

On small devices such as these it is no doubt that unintelligble shorthand will be used. Your typical "OmG i b l8 4 wrk cuz caR brk dn" malarky.

I'd take a written document any day.

And back in the real world (ie not school) (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about 9 years ago | (#13087448)

If I whipped out a laptop during a one-on-one or two-on-two interview with some lawyers, business owners, accountants or any of the other types of clients that I meet during the course of my job, they would instantly get distracted and likely pissed off as well. And then they go on to hire another consultant. Besides, any intense discussions get non-linear very quickly.

Sorry, the only excuse I've heard throughout numerous threads on /. regarding the use of laptops for taking notes is that "hey, it's on a computer, so I MUST be doing something sophisticated!!!...drool"

A set of notes is not a final product. It's something to be used in support of writing papers and taking tests. Moreover, they're not supposed to be a record of what the prof literally said (tape recording lectures are even more useless)...they're supposed to be little pointers to the ideas you're picking up from the lecturer while engaged in the act of paying attention.

There is room for a computer, however. What I'll do, for example, is review my notes and, in my own time, type up a summary of what I've heard and keep that for my records.

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

Ras Qulec (887569) | about 9 years ago | (#13087113)

I have severe problems with writing [think kinder gardener level] to the point that the local school district has issued me an electronic aid to keep my notes on and do some assignments. Without this I could never finish taking notes in time and be legible. Now I can be done before most people are half way finished since I am able to type faster then I can write.

Though the device I use is a glorified palm pilot with wifi and a full size keyboard it is still better for me then using a pencil. []

Re:What's wrong with paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087194)

Alphasmart is crap and over-priced.
You can find better laptops at the same price.

Can't sync to Linux.
It resets after hardly after 1 month without using.
(Lost a few files like that).

So it got confined to the toilet where I use it only to play chess.

Seriously regret buying that piece of shit.
Completely over-hyped.

The best writing tool out there was Psion Netbook, but extremely expensive and their latest version runs crashing Windows CE (eeks!).

But yeah again, if I did a dire mistake last year -
that was the purchase of Dana Alphasmart last year
- really really wish I'd never. I could do with the money now!

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

Ras Qulec (887569) | about 9 years ago | (#13087217)

However, this is school. They cant give you anything that will distract you or other students. A laptop would be a disaster. Laptop's can be loaded with a ton of games and other entertainment only apps. The Dana is rather limited and does perfectly what it was intended.
Having a device I can plug in at night and it runs the whole day without needed a recharge is nice compared to a laptop since I may end up sitting in the middle of a room, or in a room with no free outlets.
We have laptops at my house I could have used. But if I did that, I would only be tempted to make my school matters worse.

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

megarich (773968) | about 9 years ago | (#13087196)

In middle school/high school there nothing wrong with the paper and pen. In college though that's a whole 'nother game. Professors, unlike teacher's won't stop to repeat what they said so if you can't keep up, your kinda assed out. Remember the good ol' days where they actually had short hand courses so you can keep up? That's going to the way side with technology.

You can still get it done with paper and pen if need be and you probably right that paper and pen is faster than this new gadget. Any new technology though that'll replace my chicken scratch writing with something more organized and legible in at least the same timely manner I welcome :).

Re:What's wrong with paper? (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 9 years ago | (#13087238)

That's quaint, old man. You probably run Debian, too. Get with the times.

What's wrong with you? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 9 years ago | (#13087460)

Some of us are more comfortable with keyboards that with p&p. We type faster than we write, we make fewer mistakes, it's easier to read our notes, and electronic notes are easier to search and organize.

So you're more comfortable with p&p. Nothing wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with other people using the technology they are comfortable with.

What is wrong is people getting all righteous about other people who want to do things differently.

IRC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087047)

Yahoo, MSN, and AIM only? I'd like to see some kind of ad-hoc IRC capability.

Could it be any uglier? (2, Insightful)

DoorFrame (22108) | about 9 years ago | (#13087053)

Just wondering.

Re:Could it be any uglier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087112)

if you brought it in, people would probably mistake it for one of those 8 year old "learning computers" that somehow got popular a few years ago. what if you grabbed that instead? middle of class, to take "notes"...


Could it be any uglier? No. (1)

Erris (531066) | about 9 years ago | (#13087442)

Sure, it's mac inspired looks are a little dated (a 1998 Johny come lately M$ ringer) [] , but I prefer that simple look to the really ugly athletic shoe inspired junk. The folding case is good. Of course, the 1/3 to 1/10 price tag is something to be admired.

This is just a sign of things to come. With a MMC or CF card slot and less intentional crippling, this would be a better buy than a $80 stand alone music player. Cheap, multi function wireless devices based on free software will soon flood the market. Some of them might even look nice.

ZipIt Wiki - How to install new firmware.. (5, Informative)

GameGod0 (680382) | about 9 years ago | (#13087061)

There's a wiki dedicated to the ZipIt located here [] that contains useful HOW-TOs explaining how to install Linux on the thing... Myself and several others have written up tons of instructions on how to hack this thing. For example, I use my ZipIt as a wireless SSH client (the OpenZipIt firmware includes dropbear ssh...), and also to play streaming MP3 radio (groovesalad is nice...) It's a really cool device, and there's a ton of hacking potential...

AWESOME!!! (1, Redundant)

ylikone (589264) | about 9 years ago | (#13087077)

I've been waiting for a really cheap device (like this one) that will act as a wireless SSH client! Sweet!

Answer to why it's not open (2, Interesting)

PhYrE2k2 (806396) | about 9 years ago | (#13087107)

Aeronix does not have a subscription revenue from Zipit usage. They would benefit from making the platform as open as possible without incuring any additional expense. Leaving solder points for the serial ports and additional points for the unused GPIO pins would make enhancing the product much easier. The more things that can be done with the device, the more devices people will buy.

Take a look at any MSN/Yahoo/AOL clone application for example. MSN changes their code, Trillian/GAIM/etc catch up and release a patch.

You can't have that nearly as much with a mobile device. I'd imagine there's a licensing issue with Microsoft's protocol for example as to keeping it tight and protected so that others can't get at it.


Re:Answer to why it's not open (1)

GameGod0 (680382) | about 9 years ago | (#13087255)

Actually, everytime a protocol changes or something, Aeronix releases a new firmware and the device auto-updates itself next time it sees an access point... (People complain about Yahoo support breaking a lot....)

Yeah, but does it run MSN Messenger? (1)

joelsanda (619660) | about 9 years ago | (#13087127)


IMAP (1)

gmplague (412185) | about 9 years ago | (#13087147)

Does anyone know of a similarly priced/featured device that supports IMAP? Seems Instant Messaging alone will get you a fairly restricted market, but if you added mail into the equation, you'd be in good shape.

Blackberry wannabe (2, Insightful)

HermanAB (661181) | about 9 years ago | (#13087149)

It looks to me like a Blackberry Wannabe. This is not a notebook PC by any stretch of the imagination.

Flaws (1)

SisyphusShrugged (728028) | about 9 years ago | (#13087151)

Although it seems that the company has created an interesting linux based device, from reading some of the linked pages it seems it has a few flaws. The foremost being that the company isn't fully embracing the open source nature of the devices operating system. Apparently they have chosen to make it more difficult to develop for the unit by encrypting their firmware updates. Even worse, until they were asked to, they neglected to make the GPL and LGPL licensed software they used in their device available.

Taking notes? (4, Informative)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | about 9 years ago | (#13087271)

He's joking, right? On that little keyboard? I've used little keyboard devices before, they work for some things, but taking notes on it (quickly most likely too) would be hell.... I'd just spend a couple hundred more for a old craptop if I needed something to do that that badly..... Or a cheap PDA and keyboard....

They Copyright holders need to sue their asses (1)

putko (753330) | about 9 years ago | (#13087321)

From TFA:

"Aeronix Inc. originally did not post any of the GPL and LGPL source code used in the Zipit. After we confirmed that they used Linux, we politely asked that they comply with the license terms. I am one of the copyright holders in the code they use. I am pleased to see that they have at least posted pointers to the tools they used. They are still in violation of the terms of the LGPL for glibc."

Re:They Copyright holders need to sue their asses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13087544)

Yeah, I'm sure that will encourage people to make Linux devices.

Re:They Copyright holders need to sue their asses (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | about 9 years ago | (#13087582)

DO you have some reason why MS, Apple, or ANY OTHER FOR PROFIT software company wouldnt do the same? Oh yeah, you pay for theirs too.

Try calling up and asking if you can have MS c++ builder (whatever they call it now) for free cause you're contributing to 3'rd party programs that keeps MS alive?

is it just me (1)

minus_273 (174041) | about 9 years ago | (#13087330)

or does this screen [] look a little too much like a happy face that apprears when a certain other OS boots.

RTFA right next to it (1)

anno1602 (320047) | about 9 years ago | (#13087519)

or does this screen look a little too much like a happy face that apprears when a certain other OS boots.

The Zipit's look and feel strongly resembles that of mid-80s Macintoshes, complete with a boot-time smiley.

old (1)

Legodude522 (847797) | about 9 years ago | (#13087366)

Old news.

Looks like a nice remote (2, Interesting)

BeBoxer (14448) | about 9 years ago | (#13087374)

This looks like a nice form factor to be a remote for a freevo or jukebox system with the right software. And the price is right to play around with. Much more reasonable than buying a Zaurus or something to use as a remote. It looks pretty tempting. Linux. WiFi. Flash-able. Under $100. Very tempting.

Neat toy but... (2, Interesting)

uncoveror (570620) | about 9 years ago | (#13087420)

I would like one with a color screen. My job requires me to travel to some really out of the way places, and my cell phone has wireless internet. With a full Qwerty keyboard and a decent screen, I could get on mapquest, but the ultra thin laptops I could hide under my seat cost way too much. Anyon know of a gadget like the one in the article with a color screen and a USB port?

Web Browser and Email Client? (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | about 9 years ago | (#13087483)

It needs a browser and email client.

And it needs to come in BLACK. It will still look like a GBA SP, but at least the color won't make you throw up.

Zipit Wiki (2, Informative)

Fusen (841730) | about 9 years ago | (#13087510) [] useful for anyone looking to hack it

Not Ready for Market? (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | about 9 years ago | (#13087555)

Seems that this device, which appears to be aimed at a market of teens for chatting, is not ready to be sold for that purpose.

One look at the bug/wish list at [] will show you that.

It will also remind many of us of the Audrey -- 3Com's very clevery attempt at a similar type of device that did a LOT more than chat and still didn't sell.

Granted, their device was around the $300 range (now you can get them for about $50 on eBay), but it had a 640x480 screen and full web browser and contact management which even sync'd to your Palm.

This ZipIt has only a B&W screen, lower resolution than my PDA, and although it may be open source it has a very limited feature-set out of the box. That will change, but how many teenage chatters will figure out how to update the kernel as hacks become available?

cheap wifi VoIP phone ? (0, Offtopic)

free2 (851653) | about 9 years ago | (#13087579)

I don't think you can use a microphone with this one. Anyone knows a cheap wifi pda for VoIP ?

Using the Zipit (5, Informative)

lightyear4 (852813) | about 9 years ago | (#13087583)

I have one of these little darlings, and in addition to helping on the devel front [] I have done quite a bit of truly productive work actually using. The linux devices article was, quite frankly, the best starting resource to date for anyone wishing to obtain and play with a Zipit. Prior to it, there were no concise collections of relevant links. Do stop by the wiki [] , as it is currently under construction and showing some good progress.

For the curious, a brief overview of impressions and capabilities:

  • The device comes (stock) with:
  • ARM720T processor @ 90mhz
  • 16 mb RAM
  • 2 mb ROM for kernel and userspace programs
  • 320x240 grayscale LCD
  • Agere 802.11b/g wifi
  • Wolfson Micro stereo DAC audio
  • ships with linux kernel 2.4.21 with the rmk arm patch, as well as an aeronix-specific extension to this patch, plus wireless extensions
  • the standard pcmcia-cs wifi driver with two relevant patches
  • Busybox 1.00 pre1
  • uClibc 0.9.15
  • glibc-2.2.5
  • Wireless Tools 26
Also included are non-GPL'd bootloader, audiodriver, and the zipit messaging application.

As-is when purchased, the device is indeed running linux natively. The appropriate drivers and programs are brought about with a few init scripts, all transparent to the user. The zipit messaging program is a rather large 1.6ish megabyte arm binary which includes framebuffer, embedded audio, some decent graphics, and generally stable performance. NOTE: The zipit messaging binary is statically linked to glibc, therefore containing GPL'd code, yet Aeronix has thus far refused to release the code for this program!! If this bothers you (as it should), do something about it. At time of writing, the current firmware does not support the playing of streaming audio, though it is promised in a future upgrade.

On the devel front involved in hacking the zipit, thanks go to Aibopet and Ken McGuire primarily for their work in deciphering the process by which the firmware operates and updates. The yahoo community [] by which much of this work has been accomplished, has also produced an OpenZipit linux "distro" of sorts. It is superior in several ways to the stock Aeronix linux distro; indeed, McGuire from the abovementioned yahoo group has rewritten the audio driver to perform much better than the supplied driver. Streaming audio via madplay and freebase is indeed possible, and having played with it myself, does truly function well. While a bit underpowered for some uses, the processor has quite enough power to decode mp3/ogg audio (if you want to whine about processor speed, go get a laptop; the zipit is not for you). Others in the group were instrumental in tracing gpios and adding a serial port for troubleshooting. OpenZipit includes, among others, madplay, freebase, dropbear ssh, and the busybox versions of (b)ash, vi, ftp, telnet, etc. Please see the yahoo message board and the wiki for more information involving OpenZipit and its specifications.

From a user standpoint, the zipit is quite useful. One of my specialties is in wireless networking and wireless security; the zipit is quite good for a handheld auditing tool. (a port of kismet is in the works, for those of you that are interested). The range and robust nature of the wifi chip has never failed to surprise me: it has better range and sensitivity (perhaps not on paper, but indeed in use) than many of the most popular wifi cards available (orinoco, senao). Additionally, with the dropbear ssh client, any open (legal) wifi signal is a free ticket to your box of choice for console based applications. Battery life is an astounding 6+ hours. The 2mb ROM is too tiny for much in the way of userspace apps, but as the device is built for wireless connectivity, ssh serves as a gateway to most applications you might wish to use. An MMC card hack is in the works much like that of the linksys WRT54g noteriety, so storage capacity issues may soon become moot.

Useful? Sure, if you're like me and have the need. Fun? Of course. Keep tinkering!

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