At one point, I got a Sharp Zaurus SL-5600 to replace my aging Palm Vx. I really like the Zaurus, but sadly the PIM applications aren't quite good enough to replace the palm yet. And while J-Pilot makes syncing with the palm very easy, syncing with the Zaurus is a mess. The Zaurus is bigger than the Palm Vx, but it runs Linux. Eventually, I went back to the Palm Vx (before moving on to a Palm Tungsten E followed by the Motorola Q and now a Blackberry Storm).


I made several attempts to sync the Zaurus with my computer (Fedora Core 2) before going back to the Palm Vx. First I replaced all the Sharp PIM application with the free Opie ones since they actually get updated sometimes.

There are lots of scripts online which are supposed to convert Palm records to Opie or Zaurus ones, but I had very mixed results with them, even after fairly extensive hacking. A large part of the problem is that I just couldn't figure out the xml format used by opie. It is possible to beam individual records from the Palm to the Zaurus, but this is impractical since I have several years worth of stuff on the palm

I tried downloading and compiling Opie for my desktop. Below is a link to excellent directions for that. While this worked, it didn't really allow syncing, and I could only get Opie to compile for a virtual frame buffer and not X11.

My next attempt was to use Evolution. With lots of effort (be sure to back your Palm up before trying this) I got Evolution to more or less sync with my Palm Vx. Unfortunately, Evolution 1.4.6 on Fedora 2 was slow, buggy, and had a bad tendency to create duplicate records.

Then I tried to use Multisync to sync Evolution with the Zaurus. It just would not work directly with the Zaurus. So, I manually copied the PIM files from the Zaurus to my desktop and put them in the directory where they would be on the Zaurus. I gave Multisync the IP of the desktop (which was the same machine it was running on) and my user name and tried to sync that way. But there seems to be a bug where changing the password that Multisync uses to connect to the Zaurus (rootme) causes the Multisync configuration to become corrupt. Since I use ssh-keys already it never gets to ask for a password, but it is still an annoying bug.

All of this almost works. But it just isn't good enough for a datebook, addressbook, and todo list that I rely on daily. All day events show up incorrectly on the Zaurus. Multisync and Evolution are buggy and unreliable. So it is back to the old Palm Vx. Of course if anyone has any better ideas for how to make the Zaurus a useful PIM, let me know. Until then, it will have to be a cool wireless toy, but not a PDA.


Wireless is probably the one thing that works flawlessly on the Zaurus. I bought a Linksys WCF12 card which was recognized immediately and provides great reception. When I moved and didn't have DSL for a few days it was very cool to be able to go to a coffee shop and ssh into my school computer to check my mail with it.

Here are some links to pages with useful software for the Zaurus.

Open Zaurus This is an alternative, free, and more up to date rom that can completely replace the default Sharp rom.
Opie PIM applications and other useful stuff for the Zaurus (and other Linux handhelds)
Build Opie Directions to build Opie for the PDA or for your desktop
Mobile Tech Review Not just for the Zaurus, but still interesting
SDG System Downloads A VNC Server for the Zaurus
Zaurus Software Ports GNU Privacy Guard
ZSafe Zaurus Password Manager
Kismet Wireless Network Detection -- How To and GUI
QPlot A graphing calculator
zfeed Lot of packages, most importantly, openssh.
dump-gkr This page has a script to help convert from Keyring on the Palm to Zsafe on the Zaurus.
Software Index A very large list of software for the Zaurus. Unfortunately, many of the links are dead.


Normally I agree with the Free Software Foundation and refer to the OS as GNU/Linux, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Zaurus does use the Linux kernel, but it does not use X, TeX, info, emacs, any GTK stuff, gcc, or even the GNU bin and shell utilities (I think it uses busybox shell commands).