[Scottish] slightly OT: PDA advice

Neil McKillop neil at mckillop.org
Fri Nov 11 09:34:40 GMT 2005

> Hi all,
> Having discovered the Gutenberg project (www.gutenberg.org) I've decided
> to
> get myself a PDA. I do have a laptop, and while it also doubles as a
> hot-water bottle in bed at night, I thought a PDA might be a more
> practical
> solution for reading books offline.
> Of course, having a (very) limited budget, I'll probably be shopping at
> eBay.
> An of course, I'd like something which will talk to my Linux PCs.
> For cost reasons primarily, but also for battery life, I find myself
> leaning
> towards Palm devices, there's lots of cheap monochrome devices available,
> but
> I wondered if anyone has opinions on how practical a 160x160 screen would
> be
> for the application....and speaking of which, are there decent text
> viewers
> available? What about HTML format books? What's all this AvantGo /
> Web-to-go
> stuff about?
> Sure a Linux PDA would be nice, but (with the exception of the VTECH
> device
> which only sold about 6 units, and the Agenda-VR) they tend to require
> more
> expenive hardware. I'm hoping to be up and running for under £40
> Any advice gratefully received,
> C.
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> Scottish at mailman.lug.org.uk
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Project Gutenberg is great isn't it? :-)

I read lots of books offline on my PDA.  I have a Handspring Visor
Platinum and it's great for reading books - very clear, a decent amount of
text on the screen at a time and the backlight function actually inverts
the colours on the screen making it very easy to read in the dark.

If you have a look on ebay, in the Handpsring category under Computers ->
PDAs, you could probably pick up a Visor Deluxe (the model down from the
Platinum) for between 5-15 pounds, depending on your budget or on how
lucky you get in ebay - consider going for the Platinum (faster processor
and more memory, in case you ever want to do anythng other than read books
- there is an open source sdk etc) but the lowest model, the Deluxe, is
more than adequate for reading.  If budget allows, the Visor Neo is their
colour offering and looks much better than the Platinum/Deluxe (at the
expense of battery life - a few days, maybe a week compared to the
Platinum/Deluxe two/three weeks battery life).

As far as software goes there is a lot of choice.  One of the programs I
use is 'gutenpalm', aka 'Weasel Reader'.  Available at
http://sourceforge.net/projects/gutenpalm.  Also worth a look is CSpotRun
(http://www.32768.com/bill/palmos/cspotrun/).  There are many more GPL'd

You'll get a program with most of the readers which'll convert text
documents to a compressed palm format which can easily be copied over to
the palm using the 'pilot-xfer' program from the 'pilot-link' package

As far as getting it going under linux, it should be easy, it's a usb
interface on the visor models, so if you've got usb going you'll just need
the 'usb-serial' and 'visor' modules and you're set to go.

To answer the last question about Avant-Go, basically select sites
recreate their content so it's suitable to read on mobile devices and
provide it as 'channels' on the Avant-Go website.  You subscribe (at the
time I used it, it was free, more advanced features or more data feeds
require a paid subscription) and when you sync the device it queries these
sites and updates the contents on your palm - things like news sites,
cinema listings etc.  It's quite useful, although there is an open source
DIY alternative, Plucker (http://www.plkr.org/) - which is also simply an
offline HTML viewer.

Good luck with it,

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