SUMMARY: Handhelds for administration

From: Martin Schmitt <>
Date: Sat Jul 06 2002 - 09:11:18 EDT
Hello everyone!

Here's the much-anticipated summary to my handhelds question. Most of the
replies I got were questions asking me to please post a summary (if these
start rolling in, one always knows that he has just asked a really weird
question), and unforunately the number of real replies wasn't particularly 
high. Here's what I got from Alan Thew, Scott Croft,Edward Maas, Robert 
Legate, Gene Beaird and Daron Barndon:

*quote on*
This is rather late and is really a minor comment. Psion 5 will be hard to
get and PalmOS 4.x has a good virual keyboard as well as real keyboards.  
No real ssh support or not on something with a slow processor (most).   
*quote off*

Seems to be a bit pessimistic, eBay Germany is full of Psion 5's. Since
I've seen OpenSSH (see below) for Wince 2.0 I'm also quite optimistic about 
the SSH front. 

*quote on*
Why not use a Sony vaio picturebook with linux on it?
*quote off*

Basically a very good proposal, but way beyond the 200-Euro mark I set for
myself. I've read that Linux runs really beautiful on the C1 vaios, so if
you're in the market for a laptop and don't need a big screen to use the
book as a desktop replacement, the C1 may be the one to go for.

*quote on*
i just got a treo 90 from handspring. works great and has a
 keyboard.  Might want to give it a looking over....
*quote off*

The Treo 90 is very nice and does have a small keyboard instead of the
classic Graffiti area, but I was looking for some more screen real estate.

*quote on*
Do a search for Ptelnet, works great on my  Visor Handspring using serial
port on Sun machine. It's free, can use graffitti or on-screen keyboard,
understants the pipe, sends breaks etc, and allows for logging to the
standard memo function.
*quote off*

Apparently there seem to be a number of you who aren't as pessimistic about
the Palm as I am. I own a Palm III and have already futzed around a little
with the serial port and Graffiti, but I consider it a major pain. But I
seems that's just me, though.

*quote on*
Why not a new 12" iBook and OSX?  I have a friend who is using one for
just such activity and loves it.  Especially after recently upgrading
to OSX 10.1.5.  He says it is a dream to use.  "It just works." in his
IMHO, the handhelds are still not there.  They all (with the exception
of the Newton) lack true handwriting recognition.  The ones that have
small keyboards, well, have a _small_ keyboard.  When you gather all
the equipment up that would be necessary to make one useful, you are
lugging around almost as much weight (certainly as much bulk) as a
small laptop.
One of the guys in my office uses the Zaurus with Linux.  Neat toy, but
he still does not use it for administration.  It is too clunky.
If the iBook is not an option, how about one of the Sony VA10s?  They
are small, rugged, powerful and while they do run Windowz, people have
ported Linux to them.
*quote off*

Here's the Vaio again. 

Since I already own a Powerbook G4, I'm not going to go for an iBook, that's 
for sure. :-) The other point here is: Both the Apples and the Vaio lack
serial interfaces, so the eager admin always needs to lug around a 
USB-to-serial adapter, like the Keyspan USB-PDA DB-9 that I own myself for
use with the Powerbook. That's more cabling than would be required for a
handheld with a proper DB-9 connector.

*quote on*
I have an HP340LX and it has saved my butt countless times. It is light and
portable and connects where even some terminals wont. I dont know of an ssh
client (have you found any yet) but you can get an excellent terminal client
(that sends nice breaks when required) called vxHPC (have a look on tucows
or similar). Has a DB9F connector at the end of a cable that looks like a
usb connector on the other end. Runs on 2xAA batteries.
*quote off*

Okay, maybe that's what I wanted to hear, but I like this reply most,
especially the "saved my butt" part. ;-)

The HP LX'es do have DB-9 straight out of the machine, not requiring to lug
too many adapters (apart from 9/25 and gender changers) around. Also, the
very old ones between the 320LX and 360LX run on standard AA cells, so
there's no need to pay a fortune for some proprietary Li-Ion battery.

On I've discovered a lot of
useful software for these old devices, including an SSH client, and I've
heard that they also run Linux but haven't followed that path yet. So a 
360LX is what I'm going to go for.  

I guess that's a rather disappointing Summary for the ones of you who are
planning to roll out new handhelds, but I myself was looking for something
cheap that can be abused badly without worrying about the money. :-)

That's it for now. I'll try to get back to this after I actually acquired 

Thanks for the replies,


----- Forwarded message from Martin Schmitt <> -----

From: Martin Schmitt <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 16:38:02 +0200
Subject: Handhelds for administration
User-Agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

Hello everyone!

I'm looking for reports and recommendations about the usage of handhelds
for the administration of Unix in general and particularly Sun machines.

My Apple Powerbook is starting to grow a little bit bulky & heavy on me, so
I'm looking for something different. What comes to mind is getting
something like a used Psion 5 or a pre-Jornada HP handheld (320LX, 360LX).

Is anyone of you using one of these handhelds? I'm looking for experiences
regarding the following points:

- Availability of an SSH client (Protocol 1 and 2) that can do key-based
  authentication. (When IP-connected through some modem or GSM phone.)
- Connectivity to the Sun's serial port. Since the serial cable of those
  boxes connects to a PC, it should be a null-modem right out of the box,
  right? In fact I think I had to deal with an HP 320LX once, and it
  ran PPP on the serial line when docked, so it should work find. Lugging a 
  docking station around in my backpack would be no problem, since there
  would be some more cables, adapters and gender changers involved.
- Availability of a decent serial terminal emulation. Must do vt100 and 
  should not choke on console based "GUI" stuff.
- Must be able to send break to the serial line (OBP and all that)
- Must know about the Pipe character ("|"), I heard this one is a problem
  on Nokia's Communicator.
- Should run on standard AA cells, so I won't need to run after some custom
  battery pack. This used to be true for the HP 320LX at least.

I keep seeing pictures of Palm/Handspring organizers with Unix shells on 
their screens, but I think one needs to be really desperate to start hacking 
/etc/inittab with Palm's goofy handwriting recognition. ;-) So it definitely
needs to be an organizer with a keyboard. And I don't want to spend more
than 200 Euros or 200 USD (for a used one) while we're at it. ;-)

Thanks for your countless replies. :-)


P.S.: The address I'm sending from looks funky, but it IS valid.

sunmanagers mailing list

----- End forwarded message -----

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Received on Sun Jul 7 21:02:29 2002

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