Analysts all over the net(TamsPalm included) were buzzing about the “Linux for Palm OS PDA” ports at www.hackndev.com and other sites. Now, I decided to do the practical test on a Palm Tungsten T3 – let’s see how the free OS looks currently.
First of all. w00t! to the developers! I would have never managed to create something that would have managed to boot up a machine as complex as a Tungsten T3 – what they accomplished without any help from Palm is incredible! However, for the rest of the review, I’ll compare Linux to Palm OS fairly and ask for your understanding that Linux will not get baby treatment…
Just to put that clear – THIS IS NOT ALP! This is a Linux port by indie developers who managed to “hack” themselves into the Palm OS handheld’s hardware in their spare time, without support from Palm Inc!
Getting Linux to run was simpler than before – now, there is no more need for a web server and other thingies. All you need to do is sync Garux(the Linux bootloader for Palm OS) to your PDA and install two files(about 15 Megabytes) to your SD card. The files needed are available from SourceForge and hackndev; I used the following files:
Put into /Palm/Launcher:
A card access tool like Softick Card Export can be very helpful if you don’t have a dedicated card reader. After that, you can start Garux from your memory card. The program will show you a list of options, I fared pretty well with the defaults altough our local Linux Nut Alexander Panek changed the init parameter to /linux2ram once or twice. Clicking Start Linux will wipe the Palm OS from your RAM, the only way to get it back is a hard reset.
After a few seconds, Garux will ask you to choose your boot source. Press the To Do button and afterwards the Calendar button to boot from SD card:
In most cases(95% of the time on my T3 with a 1GB HP SD card), the bootloader will show error messages like the ones below and will die – in that case, hardreset, change the initrd parameter and try again. It will eventually work(a full battery increases your odds):
If the bootup process works(congratz, you are lucky), GPE will ask you for a few configuration settings like default user name. Interestingly, the calibration uses 4 points instead of the two the Palm OS uses:
After completing all the steps, GPE will be ready to “run”. OK, Bluetooth, Sound, the slider, charging LED, battery status indicator and the power off button aren’t supported yet; but the touchscreen and memory subsystems are no problem. This 3gp video shows GPE in ‘action’.
The GPE system is rather similar to the Palm OS-this 3GP video shows the launcher and “task bar” in action. The status bar at the bottom of the screen is miore feature-rich than the Palm OS one, you can add loads of so-called Panels to show different aspects of the system.
However, GPE is mind-boggingly slow when launching applications. My old vintage Palm IIIc beats the Tungsten T3 by far, and launching a few apps at the same time(like 10 or so) totally kills the operating system. This 3gp video shows a little “speed benchmark”.
Overall, kudos to the Hackndev folks for creating a port of Linux that runs on the T3. Indeed, applications start and the touchscreen works – but that is about it. The operating system gets mind bogglingly slow when you launch more than one application at the same time and is generally rather slow. The lack of many features and the difficulties at powerup just add to the picture: a great product with loads of future potential, but it can’t compete with the Palm OS yet!
P.s. If soneone has an email address of the developer, please give it to me(post it here). I really really want to talk to him to explain the review more and give him my “bug list”.