We have come by an amazing device that’s cool and it possesses an incredible geek quotient!

The device is Sharp Corp.’s Zaurus SL-5500 – the first PDA built on Linux and sporting Java.

The Zaurus SL-5500 has a 206-MHz StrongArm SA-1110 processor, a Linux-based embedded operating system called Embedix3 from Lineo Inc., the QT Palmtop Environment GUI from Trolltech AS, with Personal Java thrown in.

The form is a standard PDA style with a variety of buttons on the bottom quarter of the front. The display is a 240-by-320-pixel, 3.5-inch, 65,536-colour reflective TFT LCD with front light, which is also touch-sensitive.

The Zaurus sports 64MB of synchronized dynamic RAM and 16MB of Flash read-only memory, and has a Compact Flash card slot and a Secure Digital card slot.

Unusually, the unit also has a standard keyboard hidden under a sliding cover. At first sight you might think that such a small keyboard would be useless, but it actually works quite well.

To integrate the device (which runs Qt/Embedded) with your desktop, it comes with Intellisync (required if you want to synchronize the PDA with Microsoft Corp. Outlook) and Qtopia Desktop.

The graphical desktop presented by the QT Palmtop Environment is very good and the Zaurus’s performance is excellent (under the hood it’s Linux).

On the bundled software disk, there also is a terminal emulator that connects directly to the local operating system, giving you a BASH (that’s the Bourne Again Shell) command line!

You can go to ZaurusZone and download a version of Virtual Network Computing compiled for the Zaurus. VNC was created by AT&T Laboratories and the University of Cambridge.

VNC is sort of like pcAnywhere but differs in that it is free and often seems to be faster. Anyway, you can use VNC to view and interact with the Zaurus display while sitting on your remote Linux or Windows or whatever machine.

You also can telnet in! Yep, it’s Linux so you just have to enable the telnet daemon and off you go.

And if all of that isn’t enough, LinkSys Group Inc. just sent us a wireless Compact Flash card the day after Zaurus arrived. This is one of a number of 802.11b devices for which Zaurus has built-in drivers.

So, we plugged in the LinkSys card, configured the network interface and, voil

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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