The Zaurus is a family of PDAs developed by Sharp. Sharp snubs the term PDA and prefers to use the marketing term: Personal Mobile Tool. The Zaurus was the most successful mobile device that incorporated the Linux operating system (as opposed to Windows CE, or PalmOS, or other varieties). This makes the device very attractive to those who like to tinker. By default the Zaurus comes with a full suite of software including spreadsheet, text editor, Opera web browser, email, calculator, calendar, PIM, media players (for video and mp3), and other packages. There are also hundreds of add-on programs developed for the Zaurus. Beyond the base installation and software add-ons, there are other options for installing new, open-source operating systems developed by hard-core Zaurus fans.

Several models of the Zaurus were introduced by Sharp, including monolithic devices and clam-shell style units. However, after a weak introduction into the US market, and lackluster sales, Sharp stopped producing the Zaurus for the US market with the SL-6000 in 2004. Since then, the Zaurus has only been available in Japan, where it has always been more popular.

The SL-6000 features a 640x480 VGA Continuous-Grain Silicon display, with amazing clarity, brightness, and resolution. It also comes with built-in wi-fi, compact flash & SD card slots for application and data storage, USB, IR, and serial ports. 64MB of internal NAND flash is used for application and data storage.

 

Since getting an SL-6000 I have added numerous software packages including:

  • PDF and e-book readers, for reading documents and e-books
  • GPS software allowing me to interface with my Garmin eTrex GPS unit for mapping and waypoint/track storage.
  • Satellite tracking application, PetitTrack
  • Games
  • VNC virtual console for controlling my PC from the Zaurus, or vice-versa
  • Palm emulator to run my old PalmIII applications
  • VOIP application, allowing me to make long-distance phone calls for $0.04/minute from anywhere in the world using Free World Dialup access.
  • Photo editing tools
I have also acquired a vga camera that runs from the compact flash port - nice for capturing quick images and emailing them.

Finally, I have recently installed a Debian Linux and X11 installation to a 4GB compact flash card which allows me to run just about any Linux/X11 program. So far I have been able to install and run Xastir, Mozilla-Firefox, and the GiMP.

Here are a few images from my Zaurus captured on my PC running the standard OS and Debian PocketWorkstation:

 

 Here are some images running HAM radio applicatins including aprsd and Xastir: