Current_Issue.tar.gz - Go Go Gadget Operating System!

by Shawn Powers

Ah, gadgets. I remember back in 1996, the Palm Pilot came out and promised to streamline our schedules in such a way that we easily could get our daily work accomplished in half the time it normally took. (Yes, I realize the Apple Newton and several others offered similar features earlier, but it was the Palm Pilot that really took the world by storm—at least, my world.) The funny thing was that while the organization and portability of the Palm did in fact allow us to accomplish more in less time, the end result wasn't lots of free time and afternoons on the beach. Instead, we crammed more duties into an already-cramped day. It's been more than a decade since the Palm Pilot was introduced, and we're still using gadget after gadget to cram more and more activities into our lives. The good news is at least some of the gadgets cram fun into our lives as well as work.

If you're a Linux fan, as we here at Linux Journal obviously are, gadgets can be a double-edged sword. Although many, if not most, gadgets run some sort of Linux as their operating system, those very gadgets often are not designed to interface with a Linux desktop environment! Thankfully, many of them work with Linux—either by design or by hack—and this month, we talk a bit about both.

One device, the BlackBerry, doesn't run Linux as its operating system. It also doesn't support syncing with a Linux desktop. Like so many other hardware devices, the Linux community has wedged the BlackBerry into the list of supported devices, in spite of the RIM corporation. Carl Fink shows us all the gory details. Cory Wright takes us to the other end of the spectrum and shows us the OpenMoko Neo FreeRunner phone. This little beauty is open from the word go, and of course, it runs Linux. Cory tells us the ups, the downs and the potential future for a phone that makes other “Linux-friendly” phones seem cliché.

Some gadgets don't even need computer interaction. The Dash Express GPS, for example, is an in-car GPS system that connects to the Internet all by itself. It runs Linux, and with its on-line access, could prove to be an amazingly powerful navigation tool. Luckily, our own Kyle Rankin has one, and he tells us all about it. Another Linux-running gadget that doesn't need any help getting on-line is Amazon's Kindle. Daniel Bartholomew tells us all about his and gives us the nitty-gritty regarding viewable content, DRM and the “free” EVDO Internet access.

Technology keeps shrinking and shrinking. Although my Palm Pilot back in 1996 was fairly limited in what it could do, nowadays, a device like the Nokia Internet Tablet isn't much bigger—but boy is it more powerful. Bill Childers shows us how to hack around with a Nokia, and Jes Hall shows us the Acer Aspire One. Granted it's a bit larger than your standard gadget, but the Aspire One can barely be called a laptop. Along with the Eee PC, the MSI Wind, the HP Mini-Note and a slew of others, it fits into that little space of devices called Netbooks. Jes tells us all about the one she's been using and how its features stack up.

For some power users, gadgets are just silly. Those folks will likely want to read this month's review of Terra Soft's PowerStation. It's a PPC-based workstation unlike anything you've seen. Luckily, those power users can still get “gadgets” of their own, of the software variety. Marcel Gagné shows us a handful of software goodies that, although tough to stuff into your pocket, will fit on your desktop easily.

And yes, even if gadgets aren't your thing at all, we have our regular cast of columnists writing on the topics you know and love. Reuven M. Lerner shows us how to speed up database transactions with memcached; Mick Bauer continues his series on Samba security; Dave Taylor finishes off his series on the FilmBuzz Trivia program; plus lots, lots more. So, whip out your Palm Pilot and schedule time to read this issue. You won't be disappointed.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on

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