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Linux PDAs: There's Rustling in the Bushes

by Derrick Story

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The PDA landscape is coming into focus. Palm has established a wide user base and appeals to developers who want broad exposure to their applications. The PocketPC, round three, has emerged with both guns blazing, offering beautiful color resolution, multimedia, and seamless integration with Windows desktop computers. And the Linux PDAs, er, well, are rare and definitely niche oriented.

As we scan the Linux horizon, two devices in particular, the Yopy and the PocketLinux, have caught the eye of those yearning for a Linux-based PDA.

I originally discussed the Yopy PDA back in May 2000 with the article All Linux PDA, Fact or Fiction?. At the time of the article, the Yopy was much more promise than actual PDA. Despite the hype and a sensational debut at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, I could not get my hands on a Yopy for actual testing. In order to give them the benefit of the doubt, I promised to revisit the Yopy web site in August because they had stated that was their "hard and fast" delivery date. "No more delays!" they proclaimed. So, as promised, we'll see what the Yopy folks are up to today.

PocketLinux, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to this space. They occupied one of the most popular booths at the recent LinuxWorld in San Jose, CA, and have taken a different road to Linux PDA nirvana by writing the software and porting it to existing devices. I'll also take a look at their new offering in the second part of this article.

Yopy Stuck in Beta

The Yopy PDA

Yopy Rendering: When images of the Yopy were first released, many marveled at its sleek beauty -- that was before the iPaq seized the market.

Just to review, the Yopy is a Linux-based PDA sporting iPaq-like specs:

  • 206MHz ARM RISC microprocessor
  • 3D stereo
  • MP3 player, voice recording, and alarm
  • 4-inch true color TFT 240 x 320 LCD display (65,536 colors)
  • 1400mA rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • RS232C and USB serial ports
  • Compact Flash slot
  • IrDA wireless
  • Audio in/out jack
  • Front-mounted speaker

Originally, the Yopy was scheduled for release in May of 2000. They suffered through a series of delays throughout the spring. In order to quell the rants of their frustrated potential customers, GMATE (the creators of Yopy) promised a mid-August release -- no more delays! As the summer wore on, with beta testing nowhere in site, it became clear that the August deadline was going to be tough to meet.

Finally, beta testing began on July 27. On August 18, Yopy posted a project update on their site stating, "Since our first beta version of Yopy has been released, some bugs have been reported by our beta testers, and we are now working on fixing them. In addition, several additional functions will be provided to our testers on 20th August including Sync program, sound, Digital camera, etc. (programs for managing system resources)."

Beleaguered followers of the project began asking for some of the findings documented by the beta testers in order to gauge the actual progress of the project. The Yopy folks responded that the information was confidential and refused to comment further. In one company response, however, they did predict a new release date:

We feel very sorry to delay many times the release date. YOPY is not release yet which is on the stage of reliable test from the production preparation. We are targeting to put it out in the end of this year when it will usually go on the OEM market and enterprise market for the easy maintenance in the initial launching stage. We know that we failed the YOPY, Linux lover many times who wait to see and use from our introduction in the Cevit show in the respect of release date. We will make an all effort to meet the above schedule and beg your pardon.

The basic bulletin board response from fading followers was, "yeah, right."

I'll check-in again with the Yopy folks at the end of the year.

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