04 November 2007

My Zodiac in 2007

As I mentioned previously, one of my not-too-recent purchases was a Tapwave Zodiac. I am not all that familiar with Palm as an OS, although neither am I a complete novice: my first ever PDA was a Sony Clié SJ20. This was a small greyscale affair which was great for PIM functions and the occasional eBook, but which was totally unsuitable for mp3 playback or gaming (yes, I do have both the attachments). After that I moved on to the iPAQ h2210 which was a breath of fresh air, being capable of multimedia and multitasking. That cemented by general affiliation for all things Windows Mobile.

So, it was a bit of a challenge to my prejudices when I finally got my Zod. If you are not au fait with the history of the Zodiac, it was basically a Palm OS based device built from the ground up as a gaming console. To this end it has a Motorola MX1 ARM9 processor running at 200 MHz, and a separate graphics accelerator, an ATI Imageon W4200 2D with 8 MB dedicated SDRAM. My Zod is a Zodiac 2 with 128MB of RAM. With an HVGA screen and not one but two SD card slots, even by today’s standards, the Tapwave’s innards compare favourably with current hardware configurations. And the exterior, well, it has got to be one of the most beautiful PDAs ever created with its all metal chassis, an analog control stick and wonderfully tactile shoulder buttons.

Unfortunately, Tapwave the company went belly up in 2005, meaning that development for the Zodiac platform (although not for the Palm platform with which it is compatible) crawled to a halt. This is a shame because many of the games which are available specifically for the Zodiac, like Stuntcar Extreme and Spyhunter, are visually stunning and make full use of the hardware and controllers. Although I have loaded up all manner of games for the Zodiac and for Palm, and a number of game emulators as well, and the Zod does brilliantly at all of them, I must admit that I am not much of a portable gamer.

So what do I actually use the Zodiac for? Well, since I purchased a PalmOne WiFi card to go with the Zod, I can actually go on line. I have tried a number of different browsers including Opera Mini and Picsel (what a faff!), but in the end I have settled on the relatively stable and full-screen Web, the Zod’s default browser. It is hardly full functioned in that it can’t support Flash or AJAX, but is perfectly capable of handling Google Reader and any Google formatted website. The main advantage is the large screen, and relatively high resolution, which makes reading off it a whole lot easier. A pity that ClearType is obviously not supported because it would otherwise make for a near-perfect eBook reader.

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