dana.wireless Review

dana.wireless by AlphaSmart

My latest Palm the device, the dana.wireless Palm Powered!  This is a total departure from a typical Palm device.  It features a full sized keyboard and a screen almost 11 inches across!  The dana is actually a descendant of stand alone word processors.  I have wanted a dedicated word processor a while, and I wanted a device that was capable and compatible with the modern world of computing.

The dana features not 1, but 2 SD slots!  In addition, the dana shows up as a USB keyboard when it it plugged into any computer made in the last 20 years or more.  When you have a document open, just press send twice and the dana ‘types’ your document back to the connected PC.  I have tried it under Ubuntu, Windows 7, 10, Mac, and even a Raspberry Pi, and it works perfectly.

As a Palm device, it is a very capable machine, with 2mb of ROM and 16mb of RAM.  My dana runs Palm 4.1 and does everything a Palm device is supposed to do.  It runs every application to run on my other Palm devices and even syncs perfectly with jpilot on my Ubuntu machine.  In fact, it is the only USB based Palm that I have gotten to sync with jpilot.  All of the standard Palm applications are there, datebook, to do, address, date etc.  On the dana these applications run wide screen, which actually makes them easier to use.  The monochrome screen is easy to read in all lighting conditions.

The dana originally came with a NiMH battery pack, but my was switched over to conventional AA.  Using a slightly modified instructions here, I installed 3 Amazon Basics eneloop type, low rate self discharge batteries.  What I did differently was desolder the positive battery lead, cut the battery pack positive lead, and spliced those together.  I still don’t know what the battery life is like, but my guess is at least 25 to 30 hours between charges.  The great part about this mod is, if the batteries fail, I just have to pop the hatch open and replace the set.

The real reason I wanted this device is to create on it.  It really is a liberating device.  There are no distractions, no intent, no e-mail, no Facebook.  It has one job to do: to write on.  It does that job very well.  The built in word processor has adjustable type fonts, formatting, and even a spell checker and thesaurus.  The keyboard is extremely high quality, that feels like a desktop keyboard, not a laptop keyboard.  Each key press has a satisfying click.

One feature that really stands out to me is on the back:  The Made in USA label.  It has been years since I have used a piece of American made electronics.  For less than $25 I was able to pick this baby up on ebay, but the prices seem to be climbing higher.

P.S.  In case you haven’t guessed, the text for this post was done entirely on the dana!

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Palm LifeDrive

The Palm LifeDrive was a in interesting concept.  It was a Palm designed to store all of your data.  When plugged into a PC, it could appear as an external drive, to store everything.  The unit shipped with a 4gb Hitachi MicroDrive. Of course, today, this would just hold a tiny part of our digital lives, but in 2006, it was huge.

On my particular LifeDrive, I replaced the MicroDrive with a solid state CompactFlash drive.  I’ll add instructions later.

Also, for anyone looking for it, here is the updater software for the LifeDrive. To be added later.

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Useful stuff and possible revival

I recently picked up a dana wireless, Palm based word processor, and I really enjoy using the device.  I am also a Palm junkie, I have 4 (four!) Palm based devices:

  • Palm IIIe, Running Palm OS 3.1, not upgradeable.
  • Palm VII, Running Palm  OS 3.5, fully upgraded.
  • Palm LifeDrive, Running Palm Garnet 5.4.8, replaced MircoDrive with CompactFlash card, upgraded to accept 32G SmartMedia card.  This is a great device, by the way.
  • dana wireless by Alpha Smart, Running Palm OS 4.1, battery hacked to replace original battery pack.

Now, accepting the fact that I am Palm junkie, I went looking for software.  What I found was a mess.  I am having a heck of a time finding sites with links less than 10 years old!  So, now it falls to me.  As I find software, I will post it to this website, to help all the other Palm users out there who still enjoy this platform that started the whole smartphone revolution, not Apple.  Even on the iPhone X, you can see the DNA of the original Palm Pilot, and that should not be forgotten.

In other news, in case anyone needs the iso of the cd that came with the Sharp Zaurus SL-6000, you can can download it here.

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Still Around

As you can see, this site is still running.  If you want to check out some of my retro projects, head over to http://retrogame.cyberphreak.com/

It is a collection of portable and console based retrofitting of Raspberry Pi computers into dead systems to bring them new life!

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Low Cost Computing, Sweet Raspberry Pi

Low Cost Computing, Sweet Raspberry Pi

I decided to revive this site, I feel bad about not updating since the departure of my Zaurus SL-6000. I was tempted to turn it to a Palm site, but that is a pretty dead platform as well.  It was an amazing piece of technology, and a great prediction of what smartphones would become. Anyway, I do have other computer interests. I run Ubuntu on my home computer and netbook. I also recently received, as a gift, a Raspberry Pi 2. (Thanks Mark!) I already had a Pi 1, but as useful as it was, it had to run Raspbian or similar. With the 2, I finally had the opportunity to run full blown Ubuntu for Arm!

You can run Noobs and install a myriad of operating systems, including Raspbian, which is a Debian based Linux distribution. Ubuntu is also Debian based, but has a lot of support, and supports ARM based processors. Since that has been primary operating system for about the last 5 years, it was a natural choice.

Installing:

I decided to go with Linux MATE.  The Pi lacks the hardware to run Unity, so MATE is a great alternative with a similar user experience and is a an easy to use Gnome based environment.

Download the image from:

https://ubuntu-mate.org/raspberry-pi/

The site has a couple of easy to follow instructions.  In short, downloaded, copied to an SD card and ran a few commands:

sudo fdisk /dev/mmcblk0

sudo resize2fs /dev/mmcblk0p2

These expand the file system to the full size of the card you are using.  This is enough to get you started.  Next time I will detail what speed improvements I eeked out of this affordable hardware.

 

 

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Still around

Believe it or not, I still maintain and update this site.  I was thinking to add Palm (I still have a working Palm III) applications and my thoughts of the current world of portable computing.  In the meantime, the feed is still alive, and if you want to add an app, please leave a comment below and I will get in contact with you.

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Migration Complete, sort of

Had to move my old Zaurus site to MySQL 5, the old one was running on a really, really old version of WordPress, so I was not able to properly move everything.  But, at least the feed was unaffected.

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Zaurus Feed

In case anyone in interested, I created a zip file of the Zaurus feed.  It is big, but it has everything I have ever installed on my Zaurus.

You can also add http://cyberphreak.com/zaurus/feed/ to your Zaurus package manager, if you need a proper feed.

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Sad Day

Well, folks, the very few that visit this site, I am parting with my Zaurus SL-6000.

Over the last year, I have barely used it, and not much new is happening in the Zaurus world.  Sharp has abandoned the whole line and with a kid, I really don’t have the time.  I guess technology had just passed PDA’s behind.  With smartphones and Netbooks, it is a dead end.  They are in an unhappy middle which has no future.  I loved getting this as a gift, but I have felt very guilty about not using the Zaurus more.  In the end, my MP3 player is easier to use, my camera takes much better photos, and my contacts are on my phone, where I use them most.  The only remaining task was web surfing, but the current state of the internet with the small amount of RAM on the Zaurus made many sites painfully slow.  I also have nurtured my lifelong love of wristwatches, so that is taking up my free time now.
So, what now?  We are getting an Acer Aspire One netbook.   16 times the ram, 4 times the clock speed, 160G hard drive and a six times bigger screen.  Though, nothing can compare to the clarity of the SL-6000.  Probably the best LCD screen ever made.  I didn’t like the battery life when networking was running, so the new Netbook will have 8 hours of battery life and an almost full sized keyboard.

What does this mean to you?  Well, the site will remain and the feed will be left for the sake of people who still use their Zauruses.  There will be no more updates and no technical support.

Thanks for reading-

David Nelson

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