The Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 is a PDA, like a palm pilot.  The primary difference is that it runs Linux as the operating system, rather than PalmOS like on a palm pilot, or Windows, like on everything else.

This isn’t going to be a "real" review, where I talk about how it compares to other PDAs, or where to get good software, etc.  I’ve had mine for several years now, and these are my thoughts on how I use it.

I’ll even give you the summary now;  If you’re looking for a good day planner, get a Palm instead.  If you’re looking for a portable Linux computer to ssh out of, OR, a quality pocket web browser, this is it.

It came with some office software.  Word processor, spread sheet, etc.  I immediately deleted it.  I don’t process words, even on the desktop.  I also don’t use the calendar at all.  It’s ok for looking stuff up, and it’ll beep/buzz if you schedule something, but it’s not nearly as sophisticated as the Palm’s.  Also, the Year view, where you can see 12 small months, crashes the calendar.  Kind of a pain.

I use the phone book app.  It stores phone numbers well, and is fairly easy to sort.

I don’t ever sync it, and I don’t ever use their desktop stuff.  It’s buggy, overly simple, and just a pain.  On the other hand, the data is all laid out with XML, and copying it off over the network is a piece of cake.  With the Z on the network, a savvy coder could make a desktop interface that interacted directly with the data on the Zaurus.

I use my Z for two things.  Games and SSH.  Occasionally I use it for web browsing, and I have to say, it has the best portable web browser that exists.  I don’t prefer Opera on the desktop, but on the handheld it’s light years beyond anything else.

I installed the terminal program from their cd, and downloaded OpenSSH and away we went. 

The keyboard is cool, I like it.  It’s not hard to use one handed.

All that to bring us back to the summary.  The Z excels as an internet interface.  SSH, web browsing, etc.  Just killer.  For everyone else I know, who are looking for replacements for their giant notebook day planners, get a Palm.

Oh, and while they don’t make the 5500 anymore, you can still get one for about $140.

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