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Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 Today?

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the mine-still-works-well dept.

Handhelds 163

TheAdmin writes "A few years ago the first Linux-based Zaurus, the SL-5500, was released for some $600 by Sharp. Today, it only costs $140 in some places online. This article at TuxTops reviews the 5500 from the point of view of trying to figure out how this model fares against today's PDAs and if it's still a good purchase after all these years, especially at this low price. And so I bought one recently because I needed a full-fledged pocket Linux at my workplace where I work as an admin. I just added a $30 Linksys WCF12 WiFi card (works out of the box after upgrading the SL-5500 ROM to version 3.10) which I use with SSH and by utilizing Zaurus' thumb-board. Works great and it's much more portable than a laptop, especially when all you need is some email and SSH on the go."

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Which one is it? (2, Funny)

bigwavejas (678602) | about 9 years ago | (#13160499)

I can't decide if the Sharp Zaurus is the 3rd or the "4rth" one.

Re:Which one is it? (1)

nmos (25822) | about 9 years ago | (#13160525)

In the first picture it's the second from the left. In the second picture it's the middle one.

Terrible pickup lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160605)

"Hey baby, I got a Beowulf Cluster of Zauruses in my pocket AND I'm glad to see you!"

Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 Today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160502)

Have you hugged your...

I'd love too hear news about this (3, Interesting)

papaia (652949) | about 9 years ago | (#13160512)

Unlike the more popular x86 platforms, this has never been the object of upgrades ;( I would love to hear about what new stuff could be done, to revive my basement-forgotten Zaurusl. Last QT-based upgrade I had done totally killed it, in regards to functionality ...

Re:I'd love too hear news about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160717)

well, get it out of the basement, pack it up and send it to me!

Re:I'd love too hear news about this (2, Informative)

maotx (765127) | about 9 years ago | (#13160825)

Openzaurus has released version 3.5.3 which imho is one of the best so far. I have my 5500 setup to boot from my 512MB SD card to make it easy to store the OS and any additional applications that I may download plus it makes an easy backup. The feed for Openzaurus has grown (and still is) quite a bit and seeing how it is Debian based, alot of ARM packages from the Debian feed will install on it without to many problems as well. The support on the mailing list is great and I haven't had to many problems with my current Z yet.

I currently use my Zaurus as a PIM, ssh client, web browser, mp3-ogg-divx player, mail editor, and reader for PDFs, DOCs, PPTs, etc. Not to mention kismet and wellenreiter works on it as well which is great for detecting hot spots even if you are fined £500. []

If you're getting a Zaurus, read this (5, Interesting)

Adam9 (93947) | about 9 years ago | (#13160945)

I just got my SL-5500 a week or two ago and I've had a lot of fun with it. I flashed it with OpenZaurus and bought a SD card and a Linksys CF Wifi card (WCF12) for it. I wanted to put the newest packages on it, but the package manager refused to install to my SD card. After some research, I stumbled upon the Hentges ROM [] . After installing that, I tried out CardFS [] . CardFS is a default install containing a lot of very useful programs. It's designed for people with extra storage space on their CF/SD card. It made everything much simpler. Check out the screenshots [] for it.

Some of the things I've done with it recently:
- Connected to my desktop via VNC
- Used GAIM at work while all of our machines were down because we were moving offices
- Used it to ssh to my machine to monitor my X10 logs while outside of the house to see the range of the X10 motion sensors

Re:I'd love too hear news about this (2, Informative)

selfabuse (681350) | about 9 years ago | (#13161453)

Check out I haven't checked out the 5500 part since I upgraded to a 6000, but I'm sure they're up to all sorts of crazy stuff.

Feels like yesterday (1, Interesting)

Jeet81 (613099) | about 9 years ago | (#13160523)

I remember when Sharp released their Zaurus it was not available in the US and I wanted it real bad and it did cost around $500. But then I opted for phone/PDA and have been happily living life ever since.

Re:Feels like yesterday (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160770)

Wow, could this post be a little less insightful? But I guess it's fitting, considering how badly Slashdot has been sucking for the last few days.

In Sync (-1, Troll)

Wankerton (902568) | about 9 years ago | (#13160529)

I use my Zaurus SL-5500 to read OHUK [] all the time. But not on Linux it's running PocketPC, see here [] .

MOD DOWN! (comment spammer) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160640)

There are several Slashdot accounts that have been posting totally off topic comments in an attempt to get clicks to their shitty blog (OHUK -- im NOT linking to it). Advertise your crappy blog elsewhere, or a least put some effort into your publication.

Re:MOD DOWN! (comment spammer) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13161165)

Mod this parent down. I have it on reliable info that not only is he a black nigger, but he also likes for guys to put their cocks in his arse.

I would like to point out... (4, Interesting)

DanielNS84 (847393) | about 9 years ago | (#13160536)

How great and modular these systems are...I've done "Linux mods" on everything I could from X-Boxen to PDA's and they always turn out for the better. I have to wonder why, besides the obvious pressure from microsoft to be "standard", more companies haven't switched to linux for mobile and embedded systems. I mean besides the obvious legal juggernaut SCO leaning over their shoulders. ;)

Re:I would like to point out... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160591)

He used the term 'boxen' !!! Kill him! Killl Him!!!!

Re:I would like to point out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160726)

"Juggernaut"???? SCO???? Pack of money grubbing weasels, yes. Juggernaut, NO.

IBM - Juggernaut.
Microsoft - Juggernaut.
Intel - Juggernaut.

SCO - Pack of money grubbing weasels.

Remote ssh? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160543)

Frankly, for remote ssh and email, this does not seem like the best choice. The windows mobile, symbian or even palm-based platforms are definitely just as able (even more so) when it comes to that, while delivering much more bang for your buck. Ofcourse, then you don't get the geek cred for running linux, but, if that is your prime motivator for purchasing decisions, odds are you're throwing a lot of good money down the drain.

Re:Remote ssh? (1)

Agoln (869166) | about 9 years ago | (#13160569)

The windows mobile, symbian or even palm-based platforms are definitely just as able (even more so) when it comes to that, while delivering much more bang for your buck. Ofcourse, then you don't get the geek cred for running linux, but, if that is your prime motivator for purchasing decisions, odds are you're throwing a lot of good money down the drain. Yes, because I love spending 100's of dollars in CALs on all of the machines that I have to buy....

Re:Remote ssh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160750)

If you're still actually paying for your software then you shouldn't be running Linux anyway...

Re:Remote ssh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13161391)

dude, I've had a Z-5500 for about a year now, it was given to me as a gift. It hands down outperformes the HP Jornada series I had prior to getting it. on ebay these are $150 on average, a black and white palm Zire 21, is $99 at office max. Show me a PDA with the power, flexibility, and ease of use as the Zaurus in the same price range. And not one that is running windows CE 2.0, since the zaurus gets continually updated via the team, and has a current and modern version of an embedded linux system on it. Kernel 2.6.x has been available for it for ages.

Having one myself, I can tell you just how ignorant and uninformed your comment is.

If its SSH you vant (4, Informative)

putko (753330) | about 9 years ago | (#13160556)

May I suggest you get it from the source? []

Re:If its SSH you vant (0, Redundant)

sleighb0y (141660) | about 9 years ago | (#13160705)

And if it's portable OS you want, May I suggest you get it here? []

Re:If its SSH you vant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160898)

And if you actually want a good BSD, try this one. []

Re:If its SSH you vant (1)

Fung_Koo (772472) | about 9 years ago | (#13161137)

And if it's another link you want to click on, may I suggest you do it here. []

Re:If its SSH you vant (1)

sleighb0y (141660) | about 9 years ago | (#13161412)

Will you be here all week? :) If so, you might enjoy this link. []

Re:If its SSH you vant (2, Informative)

kuzb (724081) | about 9 years ago | (#13160851)

That OS doesn't support the SL-5500.

Re:If its SSH you vant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160889)

SSH []

Then and now (2, Informative)

znaps (470170) | about 9 years ago | (#13160577)

The 5500 wasn't a great PDA back then, so now it certainly isn't even a good PDA.

But it always was a great little mini linux box, and now is very good value at $140. Pity about the battery life though.

Re:Then and now (1) (645325) | about 9 years ago | (#13160942)


I've found the crappy little calendar on my phone is actually more convenient, since I'm not the type who actually carries a PDA around with me all day.

On the other hand, with a CF ethernet, modem, and wifi card, it's turned out to be pretty handy for network troubleshooting, ssh, etc.

get new batteries .. (1)

torpor (458) | about 9 years ago | (#13161187)

it seems to me that the real problem with the sl5500's battery life (well, with mine anyway) was that the battery it shipped with was inferior.

i got a new one from the local camera store, and i get close to 2 hours worth of use out of it. thats enough for me .. i don't mind carrying an extra battery if i need to watch something on a plane, it fits right alongside the CF-stack full of media ..

Re:Then and now (1)

Storm (2856) | about 9 years ago | (#13161741)

Pity about the battery life though.

A couple of thoughts on that. Depending on what I am doing, I can usually get through a day...The legs are a little shorter than my T|E, but not much. The battery life appears to be about the same as the first-gen Tungsten series, as long as you aren't using the wireless card.

I have a USB sync cable from which I can draw power from my laptop. In addition, the PSP uses the same battery as the Zaurus. Pelican makes a Power Brick [] which works perfectly with the Zaurus, and at $20, gives you nearly two full charges, and can charge the Zaurus while you are using it.

SL-5500 sucks (4, Insightful)

shotgunefx (239460) | about 9 years ago | (#13160580)

I've had one for years and barely have touched it. So cool, so close, but it's flaws are enough to not make it useful at all to me.

No speaker. That sucks. The one guy I found them who sold them took my money and never shipped. (Should have just build my own)

Horrendous battery life.

Want to attach something serial? Bend over for a zcable or don't type.

It would crash every couple of days requiring a reinstall of everything.

The one time I could have used it, (on a cruise with wireless), turns out the ship's internet needed some java crap to set up the ip access. I had called ahead to the company providing service to the ship to see what I'd need and they told me everything would work. Just need an 802 card.

It has a great form factor though.

Better battery life and integrated wifi and it would have been much more handy.

Re:SL-5500 sucks (2, Interesting)

braeburn (837058) | about 9 years ago | (#13160744)

Agreed - I just sold mine on eBay. It rated highly on the hackability scale, but pretty low on the usability scale.

For one thing, trying to install one of the open-source linux distros on it was like trying to install linux on a PC circa 1998 - ultimately frustrating.

Basic installation was easy, but after that you had to tweak, and tweak, and tweak. Neither of the two main distros (GPE and OPIE) come with a web browser in the default installation, so you must install them separately. OPIE had a version of konquerer that I couldn't install for about 2 weeks as the package dependencies couldn't be found in the openzaurus package repository. Proceed to google groups and start searching for threads to solve the issue. Once konquerer was installed, it sucked. It would crash constantly, to the point of being unusable.

So, want to try GPE? Well, until the latest release a few months ago, suspend/resume didn't work right on the Zaurus, which basically made it unusable.

Want to sync the Zaurus with a PC? You can tweak a bunch of config files and settings to try to get multisync working if you're running GPE, and even then syncronization is spotty. Running OPIE? You could sync fine, if you wanted to use the somewhat outdated Qtopia Desktop as your PIM software on the desktop.

Did you remember to install a hack that puts your root filesystem onto removable memory, like an SD card? No? Whoops - you're out of internal memory space! Start again!

The Zaurus probably would have given a much better experience if I'd had some idea of the state of Linux on the Zaurus - I had expected it to behave a lot like a modern linux distro on a PC. As it is, the learning curve for establishing even basic functionality (like getting a working web browser and some kind of sync solution up and running) was so steep that a month after I got it, I was still trying to work out the kinks.

Well, it was fun to play with if you like to tinker, anyway.

Re:SL-5500 sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160790)

sorry guys, my 5500 works hard every day, all day.
it stinks that a few of you have issues with yours.
i wont trade mine for anything. .....posted with a Zaurus SL-5500

Re:SL-5500 sucks (1)

Tet (2721) | about 9 years ago | (#13160811)

I've had one for years and barely have touched it.

Me too. But that all changed when I got an SL-C860. The clamshell form factor (and that stunning screen) makes all the difference. While the SL-5500 was an interesting hackable toy, the SL-C860 is a joy to use and a really useful bit of kit, particularly for doing remote support (a bluetooth CF card and a mobile phone make it an indispensable item for me).

Re:SL-5500 sucks (2, Interesting)

E8086 (698978) | about 9 years ago | (#13160960)

Interesting experiences, did you get it new or used? I've had no problems with mine.
no speaker- it has a headphone/mic combo jack
battery- the manual claims 10hrs, I get 2-2.5hrs with wireless card and have never been away from the docking station long enough to fully drain it with the non-media player apps. The display is clearily visable with the light on setting 2 of 5, saves power.
serial- mine has a USB docking station, do you have the SL-5500D the earlier Developer model?
crashing- never happened to me, I'm using the v3 Sharp rom

I've had mine for 23months, got it new for $195
It's great, used evey day for scheduling, mini-office apps, email, games, media player(mp3&mpeg1) and wireless connection. I get 2-2.5hrs with the AmbiCom WL110C-CF, make sure you get a low power card or you may end up with only 30min to an hour.
There are plenty of accessories; bluetooth, external keyboard, external monitior, gps, make sure they're compatable, SD&CF slots. And more than enough free/low cost software: []

Cons: it's only 206MHz with 32MB each for RAM and internal storage, some apps will only install to internal storage, so got a 1GB SD and 256MB CF cards. But what do you expect from a 4yr old machine?

Re:SL-5500 sucks (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | about 9 years ago | (#13161623)

" Interesting experiences, did you get it new or used? I've had no problems with mine."

"serial- mine has a USB docking station, do you have the SL-5500D the earlier Developer model?"
I dont' have the "D" model. I mean hooking up something serial like an OBDII logger or something. (One of the few uses I could think of for it.) I refuse to spend $60 on any f'ing cable.

"no speaker- it has a headphone/mic combo jack"
I know you can use headphones, but why? One more thing to carry.

The display is great. Maybe trying to update the rom would help with it crashing every 3 or 4 times, but still no real point for me. I have a computer in every room except the can. So something that only lasts an hour or two isn't of much use.

Even if I left it in the car or something, it's not going to do much my phone doesn't, but it will die much faster.

Though I'll admit, knowing I had an apache server in my pocket was so freaking cool... at first.

The only thing I can think of to do with it is play Doom 1 on it. Everything else is ungainly for my needs.

Re:SL-5500 sucks (2, Informative)

torpor (458) | about 9 years ago | (#13161206)

Want to attach something serial? Bend over for a zcable or don't type.

i've got an IR keyboard from Taurus that works pretty well with my aging sl5500. in fact, i'd say its one of my favourite keyboards ..

i've had the sl5500 for a few years now too, and i have to say its a wonderful thing to have a webserver in my bookshelf ...

Dead (1)

misterTreellama (762929) | about 9 years ago | (#13160588)

Yeah, I paid about that much for a Zaurus, and it was dead after 3 or 4 months. I'm still pissed. On the other hand, it was fun while it worked.

so close.. (1)

Danzigism (881294) | about 9 years ago | (#13160618)

I almost clicked on "Add to Cart" until I read the part about adding a WiFi card and getting a mere 30 minutes of battery life.. UGH! I mean shit, thats gotta be the coolest pda there is.. and it sucks all because of that pretty much.. its definitely not Sharp's fault.. unless they can develop a new battery haha.. i would moreso like to start seeing linux developers to lean more towards the portability issues.. it seems like aiming to get your OS to work on something portable, would be the FIRST thing to accomplish instead of it being the LAST thing.. of course when linux was first being developed, it was probably never suspected to be installed on something smaller than a desktop computer.. its hacked all to hell and back..

Wow (3, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | about 9 years ago | (#13160625)

The most honest line (and a funny one, too) I've ever read in a Linux review: "[The OS on the Zaurus] is not all that stable. I had 2-3 full crashes in the last few days. Some of them could possibly be solved if you SSH to your Zaurus and kill/restart QPE, but I don't see the average businessman [doing] anything of the like." The image of an exec SSHing to his handheld is priceless. (Although, if an associate had the same Zaurus with a Terminal app, I guess it could happen... :-) )

Newton? (1)

daviq (888445) | about 9 years ago | (#13160633)

Works great and it's much more portable than a laptop, especially when all you need is some email and SSH on the go."

But when all you need is much more than e-mail than get a Newton.

Re:Newton? (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 9 years ago | (#13161519)

...get a Newton.


Re:Newton? (1)

daviq (888445) | about 9 years ago | (#13161594)

Have yee of little faith looked on ebay?

Just Sold Mine (5, Informative)

rmjohnso (891555) | about 9 years ago | (#13160643)

I actually just sold my Zaurus SL-5500 on eBay. I sold it with my Linksys WCF11 wireless card. I got about $125 for the combination, which is what I set the minimum to on eBay. I got rid of mine for a few reasons:

1. The battery life with the wireless card was horrible, and that was when the battery was new.

2. To have anything new, you had to use OpenZaurus. Not that OZ is bad, but it means that Sharp basically stopped updating anything for it. Trolltech was supposedly going to release an updated QT ROM for the 5500, but I never saw it materialize.

3. Back to the battery, it was a bit old, so it had a harder time holding a charge.

4. Getting it setup to communicate to the PC under Windows or Linux always seemed to a lot harder than it should have been. I always got it working, but it always took a while.

5. This was the big reason. I just stopped using it because of the other 4 reasons and because I almost always have my work laptop with me. I can pop my laptop out of suspend, fire up Outlook, and I have my Calendar, Address Book, e-mail, etc. just as fast. Yes, I would prefer to carry the Zaurus over the laptop, but since I always have the laptop for other work reasons, why do I need a PDA?

Re:Just Sold Mine (1)

toddbu (748790) | about 9 years ago | (#13160886)

Its funny you should say this. I think my Zaurus is really cool, but not very usable. Sync was a huge problem, so I could carry around this neat little Linux gadget but couldn't do anything real with it other than a little email and surf the web. In all seriousness, I found it great for reading while taking a crap, but that's about it. I'd love to see this thing revived without Qtopia and with X, and a real sync solution to stuff like Yahoo Calendar.

For the record, I still own my Z. Waiting for OZ on the 2.6 kernel to come out before I flash it again.

Maybe it is good, and at a good price (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 9 years ago | (#13160647)

But if it is good then the last thing you should have done is post on /. because if there are were a few in stock anywhere they'll have gone by now.

Re:Maybe it is good, and at a good price (1)

slashzero (524681) | about 9 years ago | (#13160678)

Yeah I bet the folks at are very happy about this :)

I've been wanting one of these for a long time. I'm so tempted to click add to cart, but I know my wife would kill me :)

He he...I'm with you... (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 9 years ago | (#13160706)

I'm waiting for the wife to discover the $100 I put on the credit card this weekend for the hackable mini-linux box I just bought - an NSLU2 [] . I would have told her but she was already in a mood when I came home...

Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (2, Interesting)

MarkJenkins (902580) | about 9 years ago | (#13160663)

Does anyone know where Sharp tells their customer's about the GNU General Public License? Bash and Linux are licensed under this particular license. I've researched this question quite a bit and still haven't figured it out where.

Re:Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (2, Informative)

maotx (765127) | about 9 years ago | (#13160906)

Does anyone know where Sharp tells their customer's about the GNU General Public License?

From the software license agreement:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. The Software is protected by copyright laws, international copyright treaties, and other intellectual property laws and treaties. Lineo and its suppliers retain all ownership of, and intellectual property rights (including copyright) in, the Software components and all copies thereof, provided however, that certain components of the Software are components licensed under the GNU General Public License (version 2), which Lineo supports. You may obtain a copy of the GNU General Public License at [] . Lineo will provide source code for any of the components of the Software licensed under the GNU General Public License. To obtain such source code, email to embedix-support 'at'

In short, yes. Also, it looks like that even though it is a Sharp device, Lineo supplied the software.

Re:Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (1)

MarkJenkins (902580) | about 9 years ago | (#13160952)

Thank you. This on the device right?

Re:Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (1)

maotx (765127) | about 9 years ago | (#13161016)

Yep, straight from the manual insert.

Re:Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (1)

MarkJenkins (902580) | about 9 years ago | (#13161033)

Ah, it was on a piece of paper inserted into the manual. No wonder I couldn't find it...

Re:Where does Sharp mention the GPL. (1)

(startx) (37027) | about 9 years ago | (#13161166)

I sold my SL-5500 a couple years ago, but IIRC it was mentioned on one of the first pages of the user's manual that came in the box, with a link to their website where you can download the source.

The only thing I ever used mine for (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#13160684)

was this [] : it was just cool to use the (then hot) PDA with an old fashioned WWII morse key to key things in it :-)

Good thing it was a company gift...

Boot time (2, Informative)

David Horn (772985) | about 9 years ago | (#13160695)

"Zaurus v3.10 boots in about 65 seconds, which is a bit slower than the OpenZaurus/Opie ROM variant which loads in about 50-55 seconds."

On the other hand, the Pocket PC OS boots from scratch in under six seconds.

Re:Boot time (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 9 years ago | (#13160745)

No it doesn't. It's just in suspend mode.

Hit the little reset button [usually at the bottom]. Mu iPaq takes ~30 seconds to fully boot.


Re:Boot time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160856)

Yeah, for the actual OS to boot (Axim x50v) it does take a while, but resets are quite in frequent (I've done a couple for crappy programs and when there wasn't enough memory to load the bluetooth drivers because of crappy program). Otherwise I'd say it resumes in a few seconds. And even the x50v which is know for its poor battery life compared to the other system gets between 3 and 6 hours of continual use and it's way more powerful than the Zaurus (624MHz processor and a 16MB Intel 3D accelerator). Yeah it's more expensive that the Zaurus, and it doesn't run Linux but I think the premium is worth it for almost every user. In my experience ActiveSync is the best ComputerHandheld sync software out there.

Re:Boot time (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 9 years ago | (#13161162)

yeah the 50v is a sweet ride. My friend bought one shortly after I bought my iPaq. He paid 100$ more but imho it was worth it and I've been kicking myself ever since...

I'll show him up though... oh wait I did... dual-core amd... mauahahahhaha


Re:Boot time (1)

RiffRafff (234408) | about 9 years ago | (#13161347)

On the other hand, the Pocket PC OS boots from scratch in under six seconds.

By that logic, I could claim that my Newton boots in less than TWO seconds.

So there. :P

Re:Boot time (1)

briankirchoff (889687) | about 9 years ago | (#13161601)

In my experience, Pocket PC needs to boot that fast because you have to reset it nearly every day.

I haven't had to reboot my zaurus in weeks.

SL-6000 is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160701)

Although when they claim its durable, they obviously didn't account for the fact that the screen fails if you freeze it or run it in environments of 160 degree fahrenheit, curse you Sharp!!! It did pass my 2 year olds drop tests though.

zaurus (4, Informative)

mikers (137971) | about 9 years ago | (#13160713)

They are okay... I think it is a nice little PDA, and pretty cheap right now. Also big user group behind it who is pretty hardcore into linux.

- CF and SD card simultaneously
- Nice screen
- Nice keyboard hiding feature
- Even if the display crashes, you can still SSH into it! And then just restart the display driver
- The linux behind the framebuffer is rock solid (uptimes of > 2 months).
- Very hackable

- Only some CF cards work, and only SD memory cards work (not wifi SD for example). Limited support for CF chipsets (depends on manufacturer).
- Battery life tends to be a little on the low side
- Wifi card really sucks the battery dry
- Thumb keyboard is really slow for doing CLI (and painful after a few lines).
- Heavy changes in software base (like structure) right now, so the developers are breaking things almost as fast as old problems are fixed. *should* stabilize soon.
- IR PDA keyboards (like targus) kindof suck on it, I bought one but find it frustrating to type on... Press two keys are the same time and only one shows up on the zaurus, but always a surprise which one!

- Longer battery
- Built in bluetooth (for external keyboard)

Re:zaurus (1)

swv3752 (187722) | about 9 years ago | (#13161306)

You still have the onscreen keyboard wich does have decent handwriting recognition.

I haven't had a problem with any CF memory cards. Wifi, well what do you expect on Linux, get one with a well supported chipset like a prism and you are golden. I got a pretec (Prism 2.5) card that included a PCMCIA adapter. Works beautifully.

Someone please release a good cheap $60 PDA (2, Interesting)

Com2Kid (142006) | about 9 years ago | (#13160725)

Seriously, any of the old Palm 4.x devices are still a "Good Investment". Unfortunatly I bought a Sony one, GREAT battery life, lousy software support (I had to ditch it since I couldn't actually get ahold of a copy of Palm Desktop that worked with it!)

Also the entire "loses everything in memory upon losing battery power" thing bit me in the butt numerious times (especially without the afore mentioned sync software).

If someone released a good 320x240 Greyscale PDA running a Palm4.x type OS that used Flash memory, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Heck with today's silicon manufacturing processes, I can only imagine how many CENTS the CPU back in those older Palm's would cost to make now days.

Oh and the 16MB of ram wouldn't exactly cost a lot either.

I don't need an MP3 player, I don't need a video player, the e-book applications are cool though (woot!), and I don't need WiFi access. I want something that I can fit in my pocket and use to jot crud down.

Re:Someone please release a good cheap $60 PDA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160755)

I highly suggest the PalmVx then. You can buy it off eBay for about $20 I think. It has 8 MBs of RAM, 20 Mhz (overcloakable to 28 Mhz without a problem), 160x160 4 greyscales, buzzer, stylus, battery for 3 hours of continuous usage (days for 'normal pda usage'), IrDA (I can serve it web pages via my Linux laptop and IrNET, or you can use AvantGo for offline browsing).

For a PDA and nothing more, that's the best there is!

Re:Someone please release a good cheap $60 PDA (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | about 9 years ago | (#13161210)

Yah they are rather cool, but the lack of flash based storage kinda throws it for me, I don't want to get another Palm that likes to lose its mind!

That and 160x160 is just too small, especially with how cheap 320x240 screens are.

Oh well, Palm is going the way of the Dodo anyways (which also seems to be their offical market strategy, stupid! They started out good with the Zire as an entry level Palm, now the cheapest Zire costs way over $100, wrong direction to move the price tag!)

Re:Someone please release a good cheap $60 PDA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160989)

Hello, I use a Sony SJ20 with OS 4.1 along with Palm desktop 4.1.4 and it works fine and has for years. I also copy the volatile memory to the memory stick with BackUpBuddyVFS v3.0.7 so I can recover from a memory wipe perfectly anywhere I am.

Re:Someone please release a good cheap $60 PDA (1)

jsailor (255868) | about 9 years ago | (#13161195)

Just a shot in the dark, but my Sony wouldn't work for over a year. I recently checked Palm's site and found:
It's worked since I ran that utility.

Quite useful for some purposes (2, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | about 9 years ago | (#13160731)

I use it as a GPS and a music player in my car [] , and it works as a SIP phone [] (though the choice of codecs is limited by a slow CPU, and apparently some people have problems with making it work).

And, of course, it's a regular PDA with addressbook/calendar/todo/notes, web browser (konqueror), ssh, etc.

Developed on one last year (3, Interesting)

sholden (12227) | about 9 years ago | (#13160767)

I wrote some VoIP with pretty pictures stuff for the Zaurus (and the Ipod) last year. I think we used an SL-6500 though.

It's a PDA but I left it plugged in at my office - and sshed to it from home and used X11 forwarding to do GUI development on it from home (it was a python GUI but the libraries were sufficiently different to mean running it on the linux desktop machine wasn't close enough).

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

I even compiled some stuff on it, when I couldn't be bothered jumping through the hoops required to cross compile a python library. Compiling on the little Zaurus while you use your P4 desktop to read email is a strange allocation of resources.

Re:Developed on one last year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13161055)

distcc []

zerg (2, Interesting)

Lord Omlette (124579) | about 9 years ago | (#13160788)

For the people posting, "zOMG, 5500 is horrible", what PDA w/ WiFi + SSH would you recommend instead?

Re:zerg (2, Interesting)

fiddlesticks (457600) | about 9 years ago | (#13160884)

nokia 770 [] (ships sept-dec 2005)

wifi, bluetooth, gnome, linux

'The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet's software is upgradeable and currently runs on the Linux-based Internet Tablet 2005 software edition.'

Re:zerg (1)

dancpsu (822623) | about 9 years ago | (#13161051)

1) Not available now

2) $350 price tag

Re:zerg (1)

Erwos (553607) | about 9 years ago | (#13161740)

$350 is _dirt cheap_ for what's being offered. It slaughters the Zaurus in basically every way, except for not having a keyboard. I do admit that's something of a shortcoming, but the 770 isn't targetting the PDA market. As a portable Linux machine, it's kick-ass.


Re:zerg (1)

leighklotz (192300) | about 9 years ago | (#13161406)

It looks like the Nokia 770 doesn't have a keyboard.

Re:zerg (1)

n6mod (17734) | about 9 years ago | (#13161059)

If *all* you want is a WiFi SSH client, hack a ZipIt [] . (mine's still on the way)


Re:zerg (2, Interesting)

E8086 (698978) | about 9 years ago | (#13161092)

my post was "the Zaurus 5500 is great"
Get a plain low power 802.11b wireless card, no memory or bluetooth, just wireless. Fancy extra stuff uses too much power and the extra cheap ones use too much power. I got an AmbiCom WL1100C-CF from BestBuy for $45 that gets 2-2.5hrs of wireless depending on signal strength. It's the same with cell phones, lower signal results in the device having to use more power to boost its signal.

Re:zerg (2, Interesting)

ChefJoe (808832) | about 9 years ago | (#13161172)

I've had very good luck with my Sony Clie TJ-37. It did what Palm never did and brough wifi to the mainstream ($ rather than $$$) Palm OS devices. It's worked fine, after that one RMA. 802.11b, speaker, nice screen, a camera, if only it didn't use memory stick media it'd be perfect... well, if they still made them. []

Out of the box ? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13160820)

If you had to do a firmware upgrade to make it work, the wireless card did NOT work "out of the box".

"Oh yeah this bolt-on supercharger works right out of the box assuming you're already swapped out the engine in your car."

The good and the bad (2, Informative)

ChaseTec (447725) | about 9 years ago | (#13160863)

I got one of these a month ago from [] from $140. I wanted wireless access so I also bought a Sandisk 802.11b + 128meg CF card because it was so cheap. Since I researched ahead of time I knew that sharp has basically stopped supporting these things or providing update so my new cheap wifi card was only going to work if I replaced Sharp's software with OpenZaurus [] . OpenZaurus is a little ruff around the edges. If you've messed with Gentoo or ever done a Roll Your Own Distro then OpenZaurus should be a walk in the park but it's not for average Joe consumer.

I was happy to find that the OpenZaurus email app has support for IMAPS and SMTPS w/AUTH. I've about given up reading/writing word, excel, and powerpoint files because even though the Original Sharp ROMs have application to do this you can't really get them to work under OpenZaurus. But how much spreadsheet work would you do on a 320x240 device? OpenZaurus does have lots of software, it's got ipkg which you can think of as a mini-clone of apt-get or yum.

As other have said, battery life could be better(especially with the wifi card). But other then that it's cool that there are SD and CF slots. SDIO is not supported but I've got a 1gig SD card working fine. Other have complained about having to use headphones for sound, personally I don't have a problems with that.

Favorite thing done with my Zaurus so far; Walking around every corner of my apartment and scanning all the wireless networks so see what the best channel would be for my network. I've also managed to cut down alot on post-it notes.

And don't forget []

Re:The good and the bad (1)

swv3752 (187722) | about 9 years ago | (#13161328)

The piezo speaker can work in general for sound, but it needs application support and about the only one was a port of XMMS. It doesn't really work withthe latest versions of OZ though.

They're nice (1)

dariuscardren (826733) | about 9 years ago | (#13160875)

I loved using my Zaurus to surf the web, play games adn listent to mp3s while at work, nothing like looking at porn on the PDA on the job ;)

My Zaurus (1)

badfrog (45310) | about 9 years ago | (#13160887)

I got mine over 2 years ago with the $170 deal posted here. []

At first it was mostly for WiFi scanning and SSH, like others had mentioned. Worked great at DefCon for checking my e-mail without having to worry about a laptop. Most games I found were either not good, or just poorly controllable because of the design.

It then became an overpriced USB key, since I bought a 256MB SD card for it. But being able to SCP and SSH to it is still a neat concept.

And now all I really use it for is a password manager. Occasionally still use Kismet now and then, but now I have a laptop with much better range.

What Linux PDA to use now? (1)

Howard Beale (92386) | about 9 years ago | (#13160895)

I'd like to find a SL-5600, but they've all seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth.

What pda is popular now that either runs Linux natively, or through a port??

What Linux PDA to use: Nokia 770 (not now...) (2, Interesting)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | about 9 years ago | (#13161075)

well, it's still not available, but it seems to be one heck of a Linux PDA. 800x480 16bit screen, dual wireless - that's wifi and bluetooth builtin. Oh, and it is supposed to be 802.g, not 802.b, as 110% of the others PDAs that have some kind of wireless access.

I wish it had a snappier CPU (200MHz ARM9) and more memory (64MB RAM). Also, CompactFlash support would be great, but it will sport RS-MMC, for compability with current Symbian Nokia phones. Or so I'm told.

A good review here: ntherun_gues.html []
and the official page:,,74866,00.html []

Hi, excuse me (1)

stratjakt (596332) | about 9 years ago | (#13160981)

works out of the box after upgrading the SL-5500 ROM to version 3.10

Not to be pedantic, but that's not what "works out of the box" means.

Who was canned at Sharp over this product? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13161060)

The Linux hype has claimed another vicitim. It's really unfortunate because now how many companies are going to ship a handheld with Linux?

The awful truth is.. Linux isn't perfect or the best for everything. The simple truth is the time wasn't ready. The software development needed atleast 2 more years for it to truely be a competitor to the Microsoft PocketPC. The true believers and rabid zealots would never believe Linux isn't ready. They had to pressure and push out an immature product that seriously stink against microsoft. Now what's the future? Linux has no shot. No other companies are going to take such a gamble or spend millions in R&D to get it up to speed.

I hope some of the Linux zealots out there will wake up after this fiasco. We really had the perfect opportunity to shine, but it was just too early. Too many people in the community have blinders on and aren't willing to objectively look at the current state of linux development.

My $400 Sharp is gathering dust in my basement. I will be happy if I can get $75 for it on Ebay.

the UI sucks (2, Informative)

cahiha (873942) | about 9 years ago | (#13161067)

The hardware was pretty decent at the time. The new disk-based Zaurus handhelds are great (if heavy). The functionality is also nice, as are the open file formats and the Linux underpinnings.

But the problem with all of them is that the user interface on the Zaurus sucks badly. Like PocketPC, it tries to adapt desktop metaphors to handhelds, and that just doesn't work well.

As far as I'm concerned, the only PDAs with acceptable UIs at this point are Palm and Symbian. And since Palm will soon be Linux-based, I won't have to choose anymore between a good UI and a good operating system. For now, I choose a usable UI, which means I continue to use my Zire.

Its the best Palm device I've ever owned (2, Interesting)

Storm (2856) | about 9 years ago | (#13161169)

I've owned or used PDAs for years (Palm III, V, M500, Tungsten), and bought the Zaurus for $140 from a friend who never used it. (My Tungsten had a high-pitched whine that made it nearly unusable, and Palm was useless in resolving it.) It was the best hardware purchase I have ever made in its class. I not only have the functionality of all of the palms I ever owned, but the added capabilities like real games, mp3s, watching movies, and especially being able to get online (I'm actually posting this from my 5500 sitting in a Paneras) give me new levels of functionality I never dreamed of with the palm.

I also do security for a living, and used the Z for wireless sniffing, vpn, and so forth. Best of all, since its Linux-based, there is an existing infrastructure of free/opensource software, much of which can be adapted to run on the Zaurus, and an excellent support community.

I'm thinking of buying a secondone in case anything happens to this one.

If you have the chance to get one and are even remotely interested in Linux, jump on it...

Re:Its the best Palm device I've ever owned (1)

coflow (519578) | about 9 years ago | (#13161267)

I owned one and found it to be the coolest palm device I ever owned, but too limited to be practical. IMO, the most important aspect of a palm is to carry around reminders, calendars, and for checking emails while in flight. All of these rely on synchronization with some form of groupware. My personal experience was that the synchronization was problematic, which limited my ability to use it for what I deemed to be important. I also thought the Zaurus was bigger than a PDA should be. It was very unwieldy to carry, especially since you have to carry a phone as well.

My summary would be that the ability to edit Vi, to use SSH and SCP, and the general fun of using bash from a PDA are great, but as far as filling the needs of a traditional PDA, I thought it fell a bit short. I also found that it was fairly unstable, requiring a hard reset every few months.

Re:Its the best Palm device I've ever owned (1)

Storm (2856) | about 9 years ago | (#13161649)

IMO, the most important aspect of a palm is to carry around reminders, calendars, and for checking emails while in flight. All of these rely on synchronization with some form of groupware.

I haven't really delved into this aspect of the Zaurus (I didn't really do that much with my Palm, then again, the nature of my job is, at worst, local travel or an occasional overnight trip). That said, I am using the OpenZaurus ROM, and have the ko/pi and ka/pi, which are KDE's embedded calendar and addressbook. Being as they are KDE, and I run KDE on the laptop/desktop, I'm hoping that they should be fairly trivial to get synced.

My summary would be that the ability to edit Vi, to use SSH and SCP, and the general fun of using bash from a PDA are great, but as far as filling the needs of a traditional PDA, I thought it fell a bit short.

The shortcoming I have found in Palm devices was their lack of interoperability with other devices. You could sync, but not mount drives back and forth, not access the rest of the network, nothing. The other thing that irritated me was Palm's application-level dependence on Windows. If I wanted to upload a pdf to the Palm, I couldn't do it under Linux...I had to use Windows to do it. Since none of the boxes on my home network run Windows, it left me in a bit of a situation.

I also found that it was fairly unstable, requiring a hard reset every few months.

Perhaps I had a lemon of a Palm, but I had to reset my Tungsten E far more often than I have my Zaurus. I did end up soft resetting (flipping the battery cover switch) a few times in the last few months, but it seemed like every time I turned around, I was resetting the Palm.

I respect your opinion, coflow, it sounds like we have different needs.

What Happened The Keyboard? (1)

Volvogga (867092) | about 9 years ago | (#13161244)

I have a Sharp Wizard OZ-730 ( _Organizer__PDAs___Handhelds_OZ730PC [] ) and it has a nice size QWERTY keyboard on it. Sadly, it is now outdated, and can not even dream of doing most of the things that this artical speaks of. When the Wizard line went to the stylus pen, I swore it off. Looking again at Sharp's site, I found this product (,10 56,74,00.html [] ) that looks more like my beloved OZ-730, upgraded to more modern specifications (although it runs damn windows). Its called a Mobilion, and the website makes it seem as if the product is discontinued.

Does anyone have one of these Mobilions, or ever seen/used one? If not, does anyone know of a good replacement for the Wizard OZ-700 series that has some of the features that newer PDAs have? I would like for one that would be able to keep a schedule, take notes or memos, keep birthdays and anniversaries, store telephone and adress information, keep user files (like databasing to keep an index of things like my CD collection), and light web features (e-mail and light web-browsing would be nice, but not a nessesity). If anyone has any information/suggestions, I would really appreciate a reply.

Driving Up the Cost? (1)

Alt_Cognito (462081) | about 9 years ago | (#13161361)

Meanwhile, article submitter was glad to unload the Zaurus for a much better price now that slashdot carried the story.

me too (1)

abes (82351) | about 9 years ago | (#13161663)

I recently also purchased one. I'm still trying to decide whether it was a good idea, or if I should try ebaying it. It's true, it is cheap. However, you need to count in the fact that you *really* need to get an SD card ($60), and possibly an CF card ($20) if you want to put any other apps on it. At least the instructions I read, said you could only update the ROMs with a CF card, but you want the SD card, because the WIFI card ($35) you will want to put into it will also want to go in the CF slot.

The biggest complaint against these that I read before my purchase is battery life. I wanted something that I easily sync (think rsync or unison) with my computers, and do a limited amount of things (ssh is great, etc.) So I wasn't too worried about battery life. The standard amount of time quoted is about 3hrs, and that is what I found. Until I put the WIFI card in (also Linksys, btw). Then it drops to under an hour. Not that useful anymore. It might make sense to get a PDA with WIFI built in for energy-consumption..

I researched PDAs for a bit before my purchase. After experience with a palm, I swore off all PDAs. It was way too slow for me to enter in data with graffiti, or other such systems. I type fast, and I wanted to be able to enter data quickly into the system. True, they have keyboards for PDAs, but (a) they are expensive, and (b) it's a lot less portable now. With the Zaurus, although it has a small keyboard, I can type fairly quickly for most things. If PDAs are ever going to work, this is certainly the best direction.

My conclusion so far. All PDAs suck. This one sucks the least for its price. I like the look of the ArchOS PMA400, but once again, no keyboard, no purchase.

What are the good alternates (1)

blonde rser (253047) | about 9 years ago | (#13161732)

With all the complaints about the 5500 in this discussion I have to ask has anyone found any decent alternatives. Specifically I would love to know if there's anything with 802.11 and a decent web browser (maybe even one that could run java apps). Really I'm just thinking about something that would let me check gmail in the morning while I eat my fruit loops.
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