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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Tuesday, 14 October 2003

Fun with iPAQs (techy)

One of my colleagues became a little fed up with his iPAQ - in many ways, I can understand why. It all comes down to Microsoft's half-competent attempts to make all their systems run the same way. The ActiveSync software that is supposed to keep a PDA up-to-date with a desktop system is painfully unreliable - my record for duplicate entries is six (I'm not sure I need quite that many contact details for Beth!) and I have occasionally missed appointments because they haven't replicated properly. I'm sure I (and many of my other colleagues) are doing someting not-quite-right, but it's frustrating sometimes.little ipaq

Anyway, to cut a long story to about the same length, he lent me his iPAQ, and I'm using it now... the screen on mine is a bit scratched in a critical place for, erm, one reason or another. What to do with mine, then?

I'd been meaning to install Linux on an iPAQ since I first heard that it could be done, but I was aware that it was a risky business and could - if done abysmally enough - render the device completely useless. In my cavalier "I've got a spare... at the moment" attitude, I downloaded the HOWTO instructions from mstempin.free.fr and prepared for the worst. All in all the operation was a success, although the instructions were written in a rather purist "not even using Windows to help with the installation" way, which made for a number of challenges. Here's what it told me to do, essentially:

My enthusiasm for all things Linux significantly outweighs my ability, and - by way of an excuse, I guess - having a fairly old PC installation, I couldn't get the darn thing to see the internet once I'd managed to get to the bare bones installation. It was getting rather late, as well, so I gave up and went to bed, knowing I'd regret in the morning staying up as long as I did.

The next day I had another bash at it - this time trying to use a Windows PC. I discovered that there was such a thing as a USB driver to connect to a Linux iPAQ; a company called Bahia21 allows free downloads of it Fantastic news. During a quiet time at work, I managed to make a connection to the iPAQ using my Windows XP laptop, but couldn't get it to see the internet, not least because there's a big company firewall in the way, and I didn't want to get into trouble.

When I arrived home, I tried it with my Windows 98 laptop - it kind-of worked, but networking isn't Windows 98's strong point, and in the end I gave up, While I was looking for hints and tips on the internet, I came across the site I'd been looking for - http://opie.handhelds.org/download.php which had available a full Linux installation including Opie, specifically designed for my iPAQ, which could be installed in exactly the same way that the 'bare bones' version was. After waiting three-quarters of an hour for it to be transferred through the slow serial cable to the iPAQ (once again, it was geting late - why is it that these discoveries always take place just before one is about to give up?) I set it to install, rebooted and there it was - a fairly basic, but operational replacement for PocketPC 2002. Here's a rather blurred and tedious "before and after" photo of the screens.

iPAQ before and after

I think I like the Linux version better (although it doesn't have ActiveSync, there are downloads available that can connect to Windows) but I still need to get round to making it connect to the internet to downoad all the extras (such as ftp clients and the like).

Something for another day, perhaps..

Posted by james at October 14, 2003 9:10 AM

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