Life with My Zaurus

In August 2005, after about 15 years of no online connectivity….no modem, no computer, no terminal….I finally bought a little handheld machine of my own, a 64meg PDA, the Sharp Zaurus sl5500.

Previously, I had been doing some pretty heavy-duty multivariate data analysis, using mainframes before the Web existed. But, after quite a few years in academia and becoming disabled, I had to stop working and focus my time and energy on taking care of myself and, when I could, on trying to make the planet a little brighter by helping others.

So, what does it mean to me to have a Zaurus? What is it like having a PDA in my life? Well, even with doing everything on a 1.5″ x 2.5″ (2.5cm by 6.5cm) keyboard and a 2-3/4 inch by 3 inch (5.5cm by 7cm) screen on a 64meg machine, my life has changed a whole lot!

Yes, using the Zaurus can be a hassle. Those of you with laptop or desktop access, or more powerful Zaurii, imagine having to do everything on an sl5500 with a 56k dialup modem! What would take 3 minutes on a *REAL* computer can take me 20 to 30 minutes.

But, think of it this way. Having my very own Zaurus gives me significantly more independence. Even before I became a Zaurus owner, I had become very dependent, through my friends, on email and the Web. I spent many hours on the phone with them, while they were helping me with shopping and with advertizing for personal care attendants, and in getting support and information from online disability groups. Having the Zaurus enables me to do much of this by myself.

What else do I do with my Zaurus? I use it to write letters about my health care and my disability benefits, which would otherwise have to be written over and over again, by hand. I use the to-do list and spreadsheets to help me organize information I need, about purchases and shopping lists, and silly things like where things are in my apartment, that otherwise might be very difficult to find.

I use Sharp’s datebook and Maslovsky’s qpealarmclock to remind me of things, and have written my own alarm scripts as well.

So, why bother? Is it worth the hassle of using a Zaurus, with it’s limitations? Obviously, yes! My Zaurus has become a very important resource in my life. And, because I am a dyed-in-the-wool Linux/Unix and command-line person at heart, I cannot simply accept my Zaurus’s limitations, not when I’m sure there are ways I can make my PDA a better tool to help me in my life, just the same as anyone else would do with their desktop!

Since this Zaurus is the only computer that I have, I have put a lot of time and energy into writing scripts that will make my life with a Zaurus a little easier. I’m quite excited about the work that I’ve done, solving problems that many people would give up on, and as time goes on, I intend to share the results of my efforts.

Yeah, I know a different ROM *might* be a little better, but it would be a lot of hassle and down-time without access to my Zaurus, and no guarantees the upgrade would not create worse problems! Writing scripts is a surer bet, and I can work on them when I have the time and still have full access to my Zaurus.

So, based on my own experience, I believe in the importance of the little guy, that there are a lot of people out there who get a lot more lost than I do when I try to figure some things out, or who do not have the time or money to upgrade to something better.

That is what both this blog, with my Zaurus adventures and experiences, and some informal how-to information, and my more formal, informational site,, are all about. The two websites are geared towards people who are either still using an older version, or who need some down-to earth information or help with improving their fun and productivity with their handhelds.


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