Must-Have Zaurus Hardware and Software

Tips on ways to optimize your Zaurus and some killer applications.
Exploring the Sky

Don't let your lack of star knowledge ruin your romantic dates in the moonlight. Download and install the rather large ZaurusSkyExplorer, and its 4.5MB of knowledge will help you with constellations and star names. If you need to go further and see where satellites are, PetitTrack and TLE files from NASA will help you.

Voice and eBooks

The excellent CMU speech tools have been ported to the Zaurus. They can read any text file aloud. The British voice has a heavy accent, but its uniqueness makes it a must-have to impress other PDA owners or to quietly read today's news headlines. We can only hope it will be integrated tightly into eBook applications.

Gutenbrowser searches, downloads and lets you read free classic literature from Project Gutenberg in the palm of your hand (Figure 5). A nice complement is QT Reader, which reads many different documentation formats, from text files to palm .pdb documents or plucker documents (Figure 6). With the latter feature, you can fetch a batch of documents to your Zaurus and read them off-line. It is up to you to decide which news sources, comics or web pages you want to include. You even can create your own starting page.

Figure 5. The public domain in your PDA: Gutenbrowser.

Figure 6. Grab now, read later with plucker and QT Reader.

plucker is 100% compatible with Avantgo if you know the URL of the content. The hardest part is finding PDA-optimized content, because the Avantgo license prevents web sites from publicly disclosing the PDA-optimized URL or serving it to other off-line readers.

However, with some time you can find newspapers such as The Age from Melbourne, Australia that give a link to their handheld version somewhere on their first page. Look at the tiny print.

Collect these URLs or design your own page and launch, a plucker Python browser. It will create a .pdb file that can be read on the palm at any time.


Although the Zaurus comes with a good calculator, it does not let you convert units easily because of the lack of programmable functions. ZUC is an excellent converter. Two featureful math tools are proprietary, NeoCal and Formulae 1. NeoCal is currently the best calculator available for the Zaurus and offers a lot of financial, scientific and statistical functions. Formulae 1 is an equation solver that displays not only the results but the intermediate steps. A math assistant worth purchasing if you need some e-help.

Files, Scripts and Directories

Before we go on with network applications, you should know where they are installed on the Sharp filesystem:

  • /home/root/usr/lib/ipkg: a list of the files that were installed for each application.

  • /home/QtPalmtop/apps: description files for the launcher.

  • /home/QtPalmtop/bin: executables.

  • /home/QtPalmtop/pics: icon files in PNG format and other pictures.

  • /home/root/Applications: data files for applications (most of which are stored in XML).

  • /home/root/Settings: configuration files for some of the applications.

If applications are installed onto a memory card, a QtPalmtop directory is created on the card. You also can tweak application appearance that way.

Code to be executed at startup should be installed in a file in /etc/rc.d/rc5.d. A good choice for a filename might be S99local. This example sets environment variables correctly and sets the hostname:

#! /bin/sh
# S99local - run local startup stuff

Be sure to make S99local executable by entering:

chmod 750 S99local

Internet Applications

If you use instant messaging, tkcjabber from is worth every cent of the license fee. It will turn your 802.11b Zaurus into an instant messenger that is always on if you run it in the background. Using ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and IRC now will be exactly like using a cell phone. When you receive a message, the Zaurus incoming-message LED blinks, and a cell phone-like sound is played. Then you can chat in a window.

There are only two drawbacks. First, the interface is icon only. The first time you use it will be the worst: no tooltips, no text, no nothing. Fortunately, the user interface is very intuitive, and you won't be lost for long, except for the contacts. I have yet to find how to add contacts by ICQ number or nickname. The second problem with tkcjabber is IRC support. You are disconnected from IRC every time you click an obscure icon. These bugs are very minor and did not interfere with the daily use of this great application.

Free software instant-messenging clients are also available: QTJim for Jabber, KinkattaLite for AIM and KMerlin for MSN. Zic will take care of the IRC part. There is no free ICQ or Yahoo Messenger software, so follow my advice and get tkcJabber.

Now, what about sniffing 802.11b traffic? Kismet is an excellent application for this. If you are using a prism2-based wireless card, like the Linksys WCF-11, you should not have any problem installing and using it. A version that works for the Socket card is also available from the same site as the Socket driver. The excellent kismet-qte provides a GUI interface. For network troubleshooting, the familiar project has ported nmap.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

about IQNotes

Francisco Baptista's picture

I worked in my Zaurus Collie with this great program.I would like to know if it have a correspondent program for wm 2003. Excuse me the change...
Thanks in advance