The Zaurus Way

Daniel W. Rasmus

Pen Computing Magazine, Issue #11 July/August 1996

Back on Track and Moving Forward

All is well in Z land. The ZR-5800 bug is squelched and new software is starting to roll onto the shelves of Zaurus suppliers. With a constantly charged Sharp CE-BK1 NiCad battery I don't worry much about battery life. When I am at my desk I plug into AC. My first set of AAs lasted well over two months, even after lots of faxing.

As I thought when I first acquired a Zaurus, faxing is a great feature. No longer do I have to power up my Macintosh or PC to send a fax. I just type a note, use the formatter, and off it goes. I am more productive because I don't procrastinate nearly as long about sending a needed fax and the piles of paper in my office are much smaller.

What isn't smaller lately is my email. Zaurus Way traffic has ticked up the volume a notch, and I enjoy reading your comments. A few of you informed me that I overplayed the ZR-5800 screen buzzing problem in the last issue. For me, the LCD buzz hits a frequency and volume that exceeds my irritation threshold. Most importantly, the Zaurus is back on track and pretty soon the buzz will be about all the new software.


ZR-5800 OS Patch

After the brief operating system faux pas, Sharp is back on track with the Zaurus ZR-5800 and their customer focus is to be commended. Not only did they promptly ship the fix when they said they would, they offer 24-hour turn around on mail-in shipments. Remember that not all ZR-5800 units in the field had this problem, only units with a serial number ending in a 1 or 2 without a black dot.

I ran the update application on my Zaurus with no ill effects. Since I stopped using the Notes feature the second I read about the operating system problem, I did not corrupt any data or lose anything. The application took several minutes to load. After the update was completed I was informed that the operating system was patched and that my data was not repaired because it didn't find any problems.

I hope all of our readers all had good experiences with the update. If you're in the target group and you haven't yet updated your ZR-5800, do so today. Patches can be downloaded from CompuServe, AOL and the Sharp website at <http:/ products/consumer/pda.html>. Be sure to read all the accompanying update documentation before proceeding.



It isn't always convenient to upload information to your PC when you need to print something. It's also hard to find an infrared printer when you need one. The Zaurus can print to a wide variety of printers with its built-in print drivers, but without a cable or infrared support on printers they don't do much good. There are several good solutions.

My favorite comes from Aegis (520-773-0189) in the form of a US$49.95 parallel cable that turns the 15 pin output port on the Zaurus into a Centronix compatible parallel port. Just plug it in to anything from an HP LaserJet to an inexpensive dot matrix printer emulating one of the Z's supported printers. The six foot cable weighs less than two ounces and adds only a two percent battery penalty. I never leave town without this cable. Chances are good that the hotels I frequent will have a compatible parallel printer in their business support center, and if they don't there is always the local copy shop. Aegis cables are available direct or via resellers.

I find the second solution more elegant, but Sharp CE-IR1 is aimed at a more stationary position in my print repertoire. The CE-IR1 hooks up to the DB-25 end of a standard parallel printer cable and turns IR output from the Z into bit streams for the printer. This is a great solution for the office or home office, especially if you've already made the printer investment. Disconnecting can be a pain, so I suggest an A/B parallel switch box. Switch A handles input from the computer and switch B accepts input from the CE-IR1. The CE-IR1 requires batteries or an AC adapter.

Japanese Zaurus

If you have a Kanji enabled Web browser, you may want to stop by the Sharp Japanese Zaurus web site at <http://>. They have pictures and information about the Japanese Zs and QuickTime movies of Zaurus commercials. The current Japanese Z supports Kanji handwriting recognition and does not have a keyboard. It looks much like its US and international counterparts, but is considerably sleeker. Sadly, it often happens that Japan-ese products ship months or years before they find their way into American channels, and then with features tailored to our cultural sensibilities. Sharp feels that keyboards are required by US business users, who are the primary target market for the American version of the Zaurus. (It is also the case that the most advanced Japanese Zs cost significantly more than the units sold here.) Now that you know the technology exists, you can start asking for it in American versions of the Z.

Replacement pens

What can you do if you lose your Zaurus pen? For around US$8 a local parts distributor will sell you an official Zaurus replacement stylus. Call 800-BE-SHARP for the local distributor. A better choice would be to call PDA Panache (516-467-4042). They can sell you a replacement pen designed especially for the Zaurus. One of their pens is a retro polished aluminum with a jet black Dupont Delrin injection-molded tip (US$9.95) and the other is a black anodized aluminum with an orange tip (US$12.95). After you use either of these lovely styli, you will want to loose the plastic pen that comes with the Z.

My favorite PDA Panache pen comes equipped with an LED tip ($29.95) that emits a faint glow for illuminating non-backlit models in low light conditions. PDA Panache also sells styli ranging from an inexpensive promotional model to high-end slimline models ($12.95) and Euro-designs ($14.95). All pen tips, except those on the promotional version, are covered by a lifetime warranty.


Financial products

I don't have enough money to invest to try out these next two products, but hopefully you do. The first is Accutrade (800-598-2641) which supports the Zaurus for independent stock trading. Accutrade requires a $5,000 investment to open an account and offers low commissions of $28 plus $0.02 per share. Accutrade turns the Zaurus into a 24 hour personal trading center with visibility into quotes, trades, balances and positions.

It may not be enough to just make trades at low rates. Many private traders actually want information about investments before they commit their money. Notable keeps personal and professional financial wizards up-to-date with Septor software and paging service (800-814-4214). Septor regularly transmits financial information to the Zaurus over airwaves to a Motorola PC Card Pager. The service includes current stocks and news companies you select.

Receiving breaking news and making stock trades is important to people who invest big bucks in stocks and bonds. Equally important is the management of day-to-day information in a personal way. Zaurus with its information management features is a perfect place to not only trade millions, but to keep the Girl Scout troop accounts accurate and remember an important baseball game or dance recital. The Zaurus helps manage your most important asset: your time.

Daniel W. Rasmus <> is a technology writer.