Sunday, 10 August 2008

Synching a Dell Axim X30 with Ubuntu

I have an old (?) Dell Axim X30 PDA that I use mainly as an address book and MP3 player (I added a memory card so I can listen to podcasts while walking the dog). Now that Ubuntu is my primary desktop OS, I wanted to be synching contacts and sound files with Ubuntu.

The SynCE project has done this. The documentation is pretty good, but as usual I managed to make it hard for myself. Here's what I did:
  1. Make sure the X30 is not plugged in to the computer
  2. sudo apt-get install synce-hal librra0-tools librapi2-tools
  3. Plug in the device
  4. synce-pls
The last line should show what's in the top-level directory of the X30.

Note that I was already running kernel 2.6.24-19, so I didn't have to rebuild the modules as described in the documentation. If your Ubuntu 8.04 is up-to-date, you'll be running at least this kernel.

My problem: All the installation instructions warn you to blacklist the ipaq module if you have connection problems. So I went ahead and blacklisted it before I even started. Then I fumbled around for a few hours trying to connect unsuccessfully and searching for information.

The X30 only supports Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. I don't know all the technical details, but I know it means it used a somewhat different protocol for connecting. In my search for answers, I found enough examples of people successfully connecting to X30s that I kept going. I also found enough references to the "old protocol" or "serial protocol" that I finally realized I should try allowing the ipaq module. I removed the blacklist and, presto, it worked.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Linux -- Ready for My Mom, But Not for Geeks

I think Ubuntu 8.04 is ready for anyone who wants a good desktop computer with a decent set of office productivity tools. The installation and update experience with Ubuntu is as good or better than Windows and Open Office does what the vast majority of ordinary users need it to do. My mother is using Ubuntu for e-mail and web surfing and having no problems (beyond what she'd have with Windows seeing as how she's never used a computer before).

Where I'm getting blocked is when I want to do the power-user type things: e.g. sync to a PDA that only has Windows Mobile 2003 on it or use cutting edge devices like a Lenovo x300. That's when I find I have to go to Linux Geek Land. At least I'm only recompiling modules, and not the whole kernel :-)

So in that sense, Linux is ready for the average person's desktop, it's just not ready for us geeks yet.