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


 
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