Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Using my Pocket PC iPAQ with Ubuntu

Notice I did not write 'syncing' Pocket PC with Ubuntu. I don't even bother syncing my iPAQ with Windows anymore, so I have no reason to sync anything. I don't use Outlook or Evolution. If there was a way to sync Pocket PC contacts and schedule with Yahoo Calendar and email, I'd probably use it, but I use that on my cell phone anyway.
I have to admit, I really like My Toy, as I call it. I've had this one a long time. I got a RhinoSkin case for it:
The case has really helped it take a beating. I've dropped it a few times, and the worst that happens is the SD card will pop out.

I don't use My Toy like most people use their PDA's. Mine is more of a tool. Here's what I use My Toy for:

Listening to audio books - one's I've either ripped myself, borrowed from someone else, or the one's I've downloaded from I don't really listen to music. I use GSPlayer from GreenSoftware. It plays MP3's, OGG, streaming audio and other files types I don't use. It has many more features than the standard Windows Media Player for Pocket PC. I highly recommend GSPLayer. I also use the Audible Player from to play those files. Listening to audiofiles doesn't drain the battery as much as reading ebooks. The backlight goes off after a predetermined amount of time -I set mine for 2 minutes. Sometime, I'll do an audio-only battery time test.

Reading eBooks -
My primary reader is Microsoft Reader, mostly because I have a collection of 15,000 ebooks I acquired before I started using Linux. Many of them came from Baen Free Library and Blackmask Online (now called 'Munseys'). Even though it's proprietary, I still recommend MS Reader.

I also use Mobipocket Reader. Mobipocket is owned by Amazon. I've started a small collection from, and they don't support MS Reader, but do support Mobipocket. Mobipocket is also an excellent reader. The best think I like about the Mobipocket reader is the ability to make it full-screen mode - something I've not been able to do with MS Reader.

Adobe Reader for Pocket PC - isn't the best option. The 'respin' of the text to Pocket PC size rarely works. When it does, even then the pages turn slow. I really wish this format was better supported -if that's possible- because so many things are saved and published in .pdf (Portable Document Format). - many books, including .pdf files, are converted to html help files. If you ever read a help file on Windows, you're looking at a chm formatted document. I've learned that I can find most of my textbooks online in chm format.

The main advantage to reading on a Pocket PC -or any digital device, for that matter, is the library. At any given time, I carry more than 500 eBooks in my pocket. Standing in line at the grocery store? Read a page or two.

Being able to change the font size or style is also helpful. As I grow older, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. But, with an eBook, I can instantly increase the size of the print. I've discovered this helps with comprehension too.

Another advantage of reading on the Pocket PC - Backlight. When your significant other turns the light off while your reading, you're backlight is still on. To cut glare, I turn the screen brightness down to almost-the-last setting. Saves on battery life too, which brings me to my last point about eBooks.

The primary disadvantage is battery life. Reading an ebook requires the backlight to be on. In normal settings -for me about midway- reading an ebook will drain the battery faster than listening to one. Not nearly as much as using WiFi on the iPAQ though. Usually, I can get about 12-15 hours of reading before I have to refuel it.

Taking Pictures - I use the onboard camera to take most of the pictures on My Flickr page. Since this is an older iPAQ model, the camera isn't as good as I'd like, and the video capture quality is barely workable. Nancy's Nokia phone take better pics indoors and in dimly lit rooms. I'd love a camera as good as the ones on an iPhone.

Surfing the net - Since My Toy has WiFi, I use it to get online.

Site Surveying - The program WiFiFoFum works much like Netstumbler, and works better than ministumbler, in my opinion. I can use this program for doing wireless site surveys. Okay, I use it for Wardriving and Warwalking too. I use the program WiFi Graph to do get signal level analysis. These tools really help when I'm putting a FreekBox in for a Free Geek candidate. I can quickly determine if there's a community or municipal wireless service available nearby. Of course, I can't stop the FreekBox recipient from borrowing their neighbors wireless signal, if they want. I do recommend that they ask, and offer to share in costs.

Since I use Yahoo calendar for my scheduling, email and contacts, I don't need to sync that with my Pocket PC. I've set Yahoo to text me for important appointments. I would eventually like to have my phone and pda in one complete package, but what I have is working just fine for now.

Using the iPAQ with Ubuntu is much easier to do than I thought it would be. I purchased a $12 multi-reader (compact flash, SD, xD, etc). From the day I started using the iPAQ, I've used the SD card to keep most of my information. I have most of the programs I use to automatically save to the SD card, or I save the file there myself if that option isn't available. I save newly installed programs to the onboard flash storage, and back the entire thing up to a second SD card. I've completely boinked the system a few times, and had to do a complete restore. Luckily, it takes less than five minutes.

Since I'm a writer, I use the Pocket PC to do much of my writing. Instead of saving in Pocket Word format or even .doc format, I simply save it as a .txt file. I usually get prompted with "You will lose any formatting," as though Pocket Word can do any real formatting. I can bold and italic things later. Once the file is saved on my SD, and can open it in, or in Gedit. If I ever forget to save in .txt format, actually opens a .pwd file. Older versions use to have it as a save option, but I guess they decided to drop that.

While I do miss having the Pocket PC Documents folder synchronize with the Mobile Documents folder in Windows, using the SD card actually works just as well. By keeping my files there, I can use it just like most people use a USB Thumb Drive. The advantage I have is that files transfer way faster using the SD card than through the Pocket PC link on Windows. It takes about 2-5 minutes to load a few podcast on the Pocket PC through the Windows link, but with the SD card it takes 2-5 seconds. Same with moving pictures.

I don't know if the current crop of iPAQ's and other Pocket PC devices have an SD or miniSD card, but I understand most of them have something like that. Even the Smartphones.

When Pocket PC's first came out, you had to have them connected to Windows to install applications. Now, many app writers create a package you can install directly on the Pocket PC. Almost all the apps above have a direct install package available.

Someday, when I have the guts, I'm going to try the Opie system for the iPAQ. I have a friend who's ported it for the rx3700 series, but not everything is working. It would be nice to be able to use Linux on it. I'll really have to do some thinking on it. I'd miss the eBook experience.

For now, I'll keep hacking away on Ubuntu and My Toy.

1 comment:

anney said...

Thanks Danny for your info...even though its 5 years old!!! Im new to ubuntu but getting sick of windoz BS.I just got a HP ipaq 3800 with internal blutooth.Believe it or not Im still using cassettes for my music and forign languages studys. The ipaq was very cheep and looks like it will be super usefull. Im dumping XP if windoz wont help with their validation crap. It sounds like were on a simular page...wardrive,"surveying"ect(have you read "the Spacewurm i listen).That guys nuts! I love it. Realy, just wanted to say thanks for the blog. anney