Must-Have Zaurus Hardware and Software

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

You just got your Zaurus; you tried every single application and even typed some commands in the terminal to prove it really is a GNU/Linux machine in the palm of your hand. You know where most of the keys are but still may be looking for the pipe (hint: it's Shift-Space). So now what to do? This article presents some recommended upgrades and killer applications.

Expanding Memory

You will need more than the 32 or 64MB of RAM that comes with the Zaurus, because the system uses most of that memory even if you haven't installed anything. With a stock 32MB 5000d using ROM 2.37, only 600k of memory are free without any application installed or started. You have two places to put more memory: the SD/MMC slot or the CompactFlash slot. You need the CF slot for a network card, but SD/MMC can be tricky.

SanDisk cards, the most popular and cheapest SD cards, are prone to failure. Sharp even had to release a new driver to fix some problems with the less than $50 US 128MB SanDisk cards that would fail after repartitioning or work only once. The real problem is SD drivers can never be free software because of the copy-restriction system. Get an MMC card instead; free drivers are available.

Case and Accessories

The Zaurus is a hot seller in Japan, and diverse accessories are available there. Do yourself a favor and at least get a leather case from Extreme Limit. The Portfolio model will protect your Zaurus perfectly. Another good case is the GLP-824 iPAQ case from Sumdex, which can be zipped for full protection.

I suggest a second battery and charger as well. If you keep your Zaurus in the case instead of docking it, you also will need a USB charging sync cable. However, don't get a serial cable; it is badly designed and will prevent you from opening the keyboard.

Updating the SL-5000D...and the 5500

The 5500 has very few differences from last year's developer model, the SL-5000D. The 5500 comes with Hancom Office, a better metal and plastic stylus and a better AC adapter. Although the Zaurus doesn't have a built-in microphone, the die-hard hardware modification crew can build one in (see Resources).

ROM: Sharp, Opie, Paul or Crow?

Now that your hardware is ready, it's time for some software tweaks. Many different ROM images, or ROMs for short, are available (see Resources). Creating your ROM also is possible with modzaurus. If you have the Sharp ROM version 2.37 or earlier, there is a known security issue, so you should upgrade.

Which ROM is best? Sharp is the default ROM sold with the Zaurus and is widely supported. Opie is a pure, free software ROM with improved default applications. Paul ROM is the stock Zaurus ROM with some modifications to use the MMC card as the storage media, keeping the whole memory available as RAM. Crow ROM is the equivalent of Paul ROM with Opie software.

Opie's overall design is better, with a filesystem more like standard GNU/Linux, and it includes more recent versions of applications than Sharp ones. However, it lacks the Java VM and the Opera browser, and its improved filesystem makes it incompatible with some third-party software. If you have an MMC card, you really should consider Paul's or Crow's. Simply format your MMC card as ext2, and it will be mounted under /home. Opie also can use an MMC card but has compatibility problems.

The best ROM would include improved Opie applications, let you install non-free software (at least Opera, Jeode, Hancom Office and applications) and work flawlessly. Unfortunately, it does not exist—yet.

The ROM updating process requires care. First, download the ROM version you need. Remember, the latest is not always the best. Once you have downloaded the ROM file of your choice, put in a CF card using a USB CompactFlash reader or a PCMCIA converter for CompactFlash cards. First, check that your CF card is formatted as FAT16, then rename your chosen ROM file to Romimage, and put it in the root directory of the CF card. Check that the entire file copied correctly to CF by comparing the file length and md5sum to the original.

Next, if you have any important data in your Zaurus, back it up. Any data will be lost during the ROM update process. Now, turn off your Zaurus, and plug in the AC power. The orange charging-battery LED will turn on. Then, open the battery compartment lid, but do not take the battery out. Now the tricky part: while pressing the C and D keys on the keyboard at the same time, press the full Reset button once. This button is located below the battery compartment and can be accessed with a stylus.

You may need a friend to help with this awkward key-pressing sequence. If you are successful, both LEDs will turn on and the update process will start. Don't touch anything—an incomplete ROM update may damage the Zaurus, so have a coffee and come back three minutes later. You will find both LEDs turned off. Then, you can eject the CF card, close the battery compartment and press the Reset button.

The most common way for this to fail is if you put an incomplete Romimage file on the CompactFlash. Check after copying and before inserting the CF card in the Zaurus.



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