I'll be heading off round the world soon, and I'm thinking of buying one. I had a quick go with one in a shop, and it seemed pretty cool, but you can't really get a proper feel for them in such a short time.
All I want to know is: are they geeky enough? I didn't have enough time to work out whether they're 'proper' computers, glorified address books or something in between. Having word processors and spreadsheets is all well and good, but if it's a mobile phone type thing where you don't have any access to the operating system, can't mess with the configuration etc, I'm not interested.
Obviously I'll attempt to install Linux (which should take care of the above!), but according to handhelds.org, there aren't that many devices which will run it properly (and if I do get one, I'll probably go after a bargain rather than cherrypick a particular model).
Also, I need a programming language. How reliable are the python/perl/(anything else?) ports? General impression from the mailing lists is quite positive, but plenty of people seem to have their share of problems.
Any recommended brands? Brands to avoid? Any other advice?
If you want to install linux and have access to the OS about your only option is a Sharp Zaurus. All the other major brands of PDA are about as configurable as a phone would be. You can add software and so on, but you can't touch the OS at all on a PalmOS PDA. I'm not as sure about the Windows CE ones but they aren't terribly configurable either from what I've heard.
If you do remember though, Palm's next OS, 6, Cobalt is going to be Linux based...............................
The there is Linux for some PocketPC's as you've already found.
IMHO, i'd get a palm lifedrive or T5, I dont need linux on my PDA, theres no real use.
OK, I did a bit more research on this, and I found some interesting stuff. So, for anyone who might be thinking of doing something similar, I think these are the best options:
If you just want to be able to do some programming on your PDA whilst on a long flight, you don't have to install a new OS. PalmOS has an open source C compiler available, as well as various dialects of BASIC, some free, some not. Apparently there's also a JVM available, but I don't know anything about Java so I don't know how/if this would work.
Information on Windows CE programming is quite hard to find, but it seems as though PythonCE is perfectly useable. Think it still needs lots of tweaking though, and AFAIK it still only supports a subset of the language. GCC has also been ported, but all the download sites were unavailable when I looked, so I don't know whether it's still being worked on.
There probably are other possibilities, but I've spent long enough on this already...
If you want the best possible linux-on-pda experience, get a Zaurus. If you're daring, install OpenZaurus on it.
If you're even more brave, it is possible to run Linux on some older model PDA's, specifically you're best off with ipaqs, using the Familiar distribution.
With either of these you can access the command line and do whatever you want there. Once you have a network connection working, either with wireless or through a PPP over serial/usb, you can install lots of extra programs - as long as you have the space.
Unless you get a Zaurus PDA, which there will apparently be a new one soon, you are doing yourself a disservice by installing another operating system on it.
You wont get the usability, and it wont be able to do half as much as you would otherwise be able to do with the default os.
It's like me buying a basketball and letting the air out, and then trying to play with it, its going to suck, especially in comparison to a full basketball. Even if I only let the air out a little bit, its not going to be as good.
Of course theres nothing wrong with installing another OS to play with, so long as you can always go back to the original one.
If you're going to get a PDA and let the air out, you're wasting your money imho.
Any other advice?
work out if its either a geekthing comfort companion like a Linus blanket , or its a necessary tool.
if its a geekthing, leave it behind, enjoy the world. Use pencil and paper.
You're also less likely to be mugged for a pencil and paper.
if its a necessary tool, buy one with the features you need built in. Dont waste your RTW trip tryna hack Linux, u can do that at home.
you could be really brave. ditch electronic gadgets altogether. Buy a leatherman instead. You wont spend much time worrying about all ur technogadgets being stolen / getting wet / ruynning out of power either.
Either way dude, have a great time.