[linux-elitists] Handheld computer - as free as can be

Ben Finney bignose@zip.com.au
Tue May 13 18:33:24 PDT 2003

On Tue, 13 May 2003, Karsten M. Self wrote:
> > What should an Elitist like myself be looking at for a replacement?
> In my case, the Handspring Visor Pro.  It's still PalmOS, though
> upgraded, and for $200 you get 16MB RAM, which holds a fair chunk.

Thanks to all who helped out with information and advice, on and

In the end, I went with a Palm Tungsten T:



  - Feedback from this list and other places suggests the only viable
    free-software-based PDA is the Zaurus, which has several
    non-software strikes against it as detailed in previous posts.  The
    killer for me was that it's just too durned big.

  - The Tungsten T is a little thicker than the Palm V was, but is
    considerably shorter due to the telescoping design of the lower
    section.  It takes up less room overall in my pocket.

  - I'm already using a whole lot of free PalmOS software, so this
    helped make the decision.

Karsten raised good points; I'll address some.

> >   - Free software on the machine itself, if possible.  Probably this
> >     limits me to the Linux-based machines.
> There is free software available

Yup.  I was meaning the machine's OS.  Looks like I have a few years yet
before a Palm equivalent running Linux (the Zaurus is nearly there, but
is still too boutique -- I just want a wallet-sized organiser that does
everything the Palm does.)

> My experience with PalmOS requiring hard resets and software requiring
> me to prove that I owned it is one of the reasons I avoid most
> proprietary SW for the platform now.  I *paid* for this shit, just let
> me use it....

This, too, is a major reason I use free software in any environment by
preference.  The alternative is just too damned unpredictable -- but
once you've paid your money, it's too late.

> [The Handspring Visor is] Slightly smaller than my PalmIIIe, and the
> BodyGlove case protects it well while fitting comfortably in my
> leather jacket breast pocket.

I now have the Tungsten T wrapped in a wallet, and it's already
comfortable as a replacement for the Palm V.

> >   - Connectivity.  I see may people sticking USB and CF and other
> >     whatsits into their handhelds, and am getting envious.
> USB cradle, IrDA works well (though it's about 1/10 the speed of the USB
> cradle).  Probably other plugins, but I'm just not enough of a hardware
> weenie to care....

I'm hoping to see USB *into* the machine itself -- i.e. so I can use USB
storage devices, primarily.  I'm currently using a 128Mb USB flash stick
to store GPG and SSH keys on my (physical) keyring.

> >   - Other things to look out for; I've been stuck in a time warp since
> >     1999 as far as these things are concerned.
> It was a good year.  Linux was on the cusp of knocking over Microsoft
> (where it remains to this day), the stock market was booming, parties
> were great, the towers stood, the millenial gloom hadn't occured yet,
> we had a democratically elected president.  Why leave?  ;-)

Well, I was never there for the last three of those, living in sunny
happy Australia.

(<pedant>"millennial", "occurred"</pedant>)

> Keyri[ng], a secured database for holding passwords.  I hav etoo many,
> can't keep 'em straight, and appreciate being able to carry them with
> me...but encrypted so that others can't pry.

This is, indeed, an invaluable application for me; more indispensible
than the date book, even.  Hopefully the fact that it's free software,
using (I think) Blowfish for encrypting the database, should mean I can
port it (or at least the data) to another system when the time comes.

> Plucker.  A free software version of Avant-Go, essentially.  Offline
> web browser.

I'm not yet in the habit of syncing that often, so I haven't used
Plucker to full advantage yet; but it's yet another free-software
feather in the PalmOS camp.

> Things I don't particularly care about:  connectivity (I'm not a
> wireless / mobile freak, I just want to have portable information and
> something for the road), color (text works great on B&W), complex
> features (I'm rarely more than an hour from a real computer, and I can
> take notes on whatever it is that's on my mind until I get there).

Agreed on all counts.  My heavy use of the Palm V for quick note-taking
probably led to its demise.

> Bonuses:  battery life's great.

The Palm devices do seem to have that as a feature, compared to
competing devices.

 \       "I watched the Indy 500, and I was thinking that if they left |
  `\      earlier they wouldn't have to go so fast."  -- Steven Wright |
_o__)                                                                  |
bignose@zip.com.au  F'print 9CFE12B0 791A4267 887F520C B7AC2E51 BD41714B
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