Zaurus Basics: A Console Tutorial

This tutorial is geared towards those of you out there who just want to use their Zaurii to play games, keep track of appointments, do email, browse the web, listen to music, or do whatever else you bought your Zaurus to do, without having to painfully figure out all the technical intricacies of the thing when you run into trouble trying to install new applications or recover from a crash.

You might have to figure a few things out, but my goal is to make that process as painless as possible. If you are brand new to Linux and feeling totally lost, you may wish to check out my Newbie Resource page.

There are many excellent Zaurus sites out there for techies, so if you really want heavy-duty techie stuff, I would suggest that you remember to check back for additions to my How-Tos and Tutorials, and that you immediately check out the following sites for starters:

http://www.hermocom.com (formerly http://www.daniel-hertrich.de)



There also is a wealth of well-organized and thorough heavy-duty techie information for the C3000/C3100 at Menaie's site:


Now, back to the sl5500, I am going to assume that you have the manuals that came with your Zaurus. If you do not, then you might be able to get them here for the sl5500 Sharp ROM 2.38. Or try this link for manuals from the CD for the sl5500 and sl5600. You will have to google for the manuals for other models and ROMs.

If you do not know what ROM you are running, then look at the "Version" tab in the "System Info" application, or something similar if you do not have that.

Having a console or terminal application is absolutely essential. If you do not have the terminal software that came with the Zaurus, I recommend qpe-terminal_1.5.0-2_arm.ipk for it's simplicity. It can be found at:



If the above links do not work, then http://www.elsix.org hopefully should lead you to other download pages for these.

Although I have been told that the opie console has many more wonderful features, I prefer qpe-terminal. I just like qpe-terminal's simplicity. If you want to try other terminals, see this list of links for a few others.

I personally cannot imagine using my Zaurus without a terminal. It is like having a car without any car keys!! But for those of you who do not want to have those keys, although I do understand, I want to explain how essential a console is, in the hopes that you will change your mind and install one.

Have you ever gotten frustrated because some really nifty piece of software you want to add does not show up in the list of packages shown in the built-in package installer? Or had the installer give you the following rather useless diagnostic?

ipkg says: "something went wrong"

A console can provide you with information about what went wrong, and you can very easily use it to help you install software.

There are two ways to install arm.ipk's from the command line in a console. The first is to call qtopia's installer, and the second is to use ipkg itself. I usually take the lazy way out and use qtopia's installer!

All you have to do is enter the following after the prompt (all on one line):

bash-2.05# qinstall yourpackagename.arm.ipk &

If the package is not in your home directory because, for example, you downloaded it using Opera, then you will have to enter the full path name for the file.

The best way to find the full pathname for your ipk, is to use the find command! Simply enter the following all on one line, after your bash prompt:

find / -name yourpackagename.arm.ipk

What you will see is something like the following:

bash-2.05# find / -name yourpackagename.arm.ipk
find: /proc/12/fd: No such file or directory

You can ignore the "No such file or directory" messages. They just refer to temporary processes that have just been completed, and always appear, unless you do some techie things to hide that part of the output.

The next thing you do is just copy and paste (or type if you do not want to cut and paste) the results into your command, again, all on one line:

bash-2.05# qinstall /home/root/Documents/yourpackagename_arm.ipk &

The ampersand & is not essential, but lets you do other things with the console, if you need to, before the installation is complete.

When you hit the "OK" button, or a carriage return, your Zaurus will load the software installer, and you should see a little hourglass in the taskbar, and then the regular software Package Installer GUI will appear for you to use, just as usual.

The difference here is that if you see that silly "something went wrong" message, you can tap on the terminal icon in the bottom taskbar to go back out into the console and look at the information there which hopefully will tell you what went wrong!

I always like to go back out and look at the console display before tapping the final "OK" button, just to see what is there. I do this because once the actual installation is started, the machine will freeze up until installation is completed, and the console will be closed by the system in the process. If I do not grab the information before I tell my Z to complete the installation, or to exit the Package Installer, the debugging information will be gone forever.

So, when the error message appears in your GUI, or ipkg is done, copy and paste everything that has appeared on the screen, including the command you entered, into a file. Be sure to save the file before you close the GUI installer.

If you are lucky, the software will install just fine. But if it does not, at least you will know why, and be able to take that information to the Zaurus community for help if you want to.

If you want to do some troubleshooting of your own before asking the community for help, you also may find some helpful hints on the following page:


Another thing that sometimes happens, though, is the software installs just fine, but then it will not run! In these instances, as well, using the command line is absolutely essential for figuring out why. You may want to try some of the suggestions in the above article, and then take any unresolved problems to a Zaurus mailing list, chat room, or forum for help.

Another very nifty thing you can do with a terminal application is extract a single file from Sharp's backup, instead of having to go through the hassle of taking your Z back to the last backup you made if you accidentally delete an important file or some critical file gets corrupted. While you certainly can buy commercial software from The Kompany to do this, you can save some bucks and fetch individual files for yourself using a console. See my blog page about this at Me and My Zaurus.

The best resource for us is oesf either at http://www.oesf.org/forums or alternatively at http://www.oesf.org/forum and if you register, you can either post a question in the forums, or send me a Private Message there. I got pretty lost when I first went there, so in case you need the suggestion, I recommend that you post in one of the following two subforums if a search at oesf does not turn up anything helpful:

OE Forums > General Forums > General Support and Discussion > Software
(If the above link does not work, then use this one.)
OE Forums ?ROMs, Development, and Model Specific Forums ?ROMs Support and Discussion ?Sharp ROMs
(If the above link does not work, then use this one.)

If you have Cacko, OZ, or some other ROM, then you would post in the subforum for your particular flavor of ROM.

If you are new to Linux and feeling lost when trying to debug a problem, look at my list of Linux Newbie Resources.

The console is a very, very powerful tool, but it must also be used with great respect for your Zaurus's processes and file system, or you can create very serious problems for yourself. Here are some basic rules to remember that should keep you out of trouble, or at least minimize it, which also apply to working with the Zaurus's GUI file management and process management software:


  1. Always make a backup before installing new software. Sometimes something serious can go wrong with package installation, and an up-to-date backup can enable you to easily restore your system with a minimum of data loss.
  2. Never move, rename or delete any folders, files or links that were not created by you unless you really know what you are doing, and can be absolutely positive the proposed action will not hurt any applications.
  3. Use wildcards (i.e., asterisks "*") with great caution. If you are not careful, you can accidentally erase all or many of the files in your current working directory.
  4. Never kill a process unless you know for sure it will not hurt the system.

My intent is not to scare you, but to instill a healthy respect for files and processes that you, yourself, did not create or start.

Most of us accidentally break the above rules once in a while, and have been very sorry we did. As a newbie, the effects of breaking them can be very difficult, because you will not necessarily know how to repair the resultant damage yourself, and many of us who know what we are doing may be very likely to tell you to simply restore your system from a backup file, or take it back to a factory reset, depending on how difficult the damage is to repair.

I am sorry to end this section with the above caveats, but I want to make sure you understand how the misuse of the power we have with our fantastic Zaurii can lots of grief, and I want to make sure you treat that power with respect, so that you can minimize your aggravation and maximize your joy with your Zaurus!

Revised October 9, 2011