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Linux PDA project for Mac OS X achieves release

Sep 30, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

A project to create a Linux-based PDA software environment that integrates closely with MacOS X has achieved a new development release. The myPDA-Zaurus-Edition project test release includes libraries, a runtime component, PDA applications, and cross-compiling toolchain.

(Click for larger view of myPDA-Zaurus-Edition palmtop background)

Dr. Nikolaus Schaller of the DSITRI (Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller Information Technology Research Initiative) describes the project as “sort of a 'Mini MacOS X'” environment for the Sharp Zaurus, based on GNUstep/mGStep. The idea is to use Mac OS development tools to create applications that can then be built to run under MacOS X, using Cocoa, on top of a runtime component on a Sharp Zaurus, or as “fat” binaries that can run on either.

The project hopes to catalyze the development of an open source PDA software environment for Sharp's ARM-Linux-2.4 based Zaurus PDAs that supports GSM/GPRS cards, synchronizes with Apple computers, plays iTunes and other media, browses the Internet, and more. It regularly publishes developer releases for “testing, inspection, learning, comparing, and giving feedback,” Dr. Schaller says, and previously made a test release in December of 2003. In January of this year, it sought additional developers.

The myPDA-Zaurus-Edition consists of four components:

  • mySTEP — the LGPLed (open source) GUI toolkit libraries:
    • libFoundation
    • libAppKit (with Xraw backend),
    • libAddressBook (written from scrach to be neat, small and compatible to Cocoa naming schemes)
    • libSystemUIPlugin (for MenuExtras)
    • libPreferencePane (to create plugins for Settings)
    • nib2mib (our version of nib2gmodel to translate Interface Builder files)
    • and others

  • myPDA — the runtime environment (X-Server, mlvwm, SystemUIServer, …)
  • myApps — A PDA application suite (address book, RPN calculator, calendar, file finder, viewer, phone dialer, recorder, browser, etc.). “Fat” binary versions for MacOS X are available for testing.
  • Zaurus-X-gcc (2.95.3) — an ARM cross-compiler plugin for Xcode capable of Objective-C. Application development is done on a Mac with Xcode, Interface Builder, and Cocoa. Application bundles (.app) can be copied to the Zaurus to run there. For development purposes, applications can also be made to run on the Zaurus and redirect their graphical output to Apple X11 on the host Mac. A gdb running on the Zaurus is included.

All components of myPDA-Zaurus-Edition are compiled for the Sharp Zaurus with Sharp ROM, which uses ARM-Linux 2.4. They are compiled to fit a 32MB file system and 32MB RAM “which is the main reason why we can't use the latest full GNUstep and develop as a parallel fork,” Dr. Schaller explains.

The DSITRI Website offers more information about the myPDA-Zaurus-Edition project, including screenshots, test binary downloads, and a user discussion forum.

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