This question seems to arise all the time. I am in your situation as well. You can check my rants from few weeks ago here
In the meantime I went through pdaXiiv13v2, pdaXrom r198, Sharp ROM and Angstrom. Without any prejudice and with all the honor distro developers deserve, my brief judgements from a C1000 user's perspective:pdaXrom r198
and judged by Meanie's work on old versions I would bet on this one for the future.
- some HW problems still (sound) and not the best UI support (obviously Meanie has a lot to do and there don't seem to be enough dedicated people to work on it) and what I do mind is the flashing - needs U-boot emergency system (why?) - that makes it difficult to install and especially to remove! but of course not impossible... I am just always struggling with it...pdaXii13v2
, fairly good GUI support and with a bit of Linux knowledge you get most stuff working quickly (e.g. WiFi)
- obsolete kernel (I myself don't care that much), not optimized for C1000 (by default consumes quite a bit of NAND so you have to be carefull with installing stuff)Angstrom
+ has a drive towards a very mature software product, seems to have a good developer's ecosystem, seems to follow a rigorous development process and the scene seems to be highly organized, as far as HW is concerned, WiFi worked the best with this distro (after some tweaking) - almost Plug-and-play.
- support (over-sensitive, unhelpful and arrogant developer(s), no good feedback when problems occur - check the Angstrom bugzilla - a lot of stuff and users are left in the dark - DISCLAIMER: THIS IS MY PERSONAL JUDGEMENT AND NO OBJECTIVE JUDGEMENT) and what made me go away from there are broken packages. There are zillions of packages but I did not manage to install a single one which resulted in a working application (LyX, mplayer, ...).
So all in all which one is the best for you? People told me that pdaXrom is more like a laptop environment, Cacko/Sharp ROM are more for PDA users and Angstrom is somewhere in between. I find this not very correct. Angstrom is nowhere in between, true that pdaXrom gives you laptop environment and Cacko/Sharp is somewhat directed towards PDA users. But Cacko does not evolve by now too much, so I miss some packages I would like to have. And the UI is also not usable like e.g. Palm OS. pdaXrom and Angstrom are useless when you turn the display into the handheld mode. And Debian is not going to be any better as work on UI is virtually zero.
From my point of view, there's a lot of energy invested into HW support and new kernels etc. That itself is laudable and great work is being done there. However for me this whole device boils down to GUI. And here Zaurus seems to be by now quite a poor gadget. Unfortunately. And it won't change unless somebody takes an opportunity, or some company doesn't come up with something portable to Z (Google phone, Ubuntu mobile?). What I mean is simple. I am not sure whether we need yet another layers of abstraction and application stacks. I think a lot can be achieved on the level of desktop and window manager. Something in direction Meanie tried to do, or Capn_Fish seems to go with the Celestial. As I said, Z is a close-to useless brick when you turn the display into the handheld mode. But enough of this elaboration...
So which distro is for you? No clue - depends on what you expect from the device. I myself have similar needs as you, plus an advanced text editing (LyX + LaTeX) and I decided for now for pdaXii13v2 and I am looking forward to see the r198. Reasons: very friendly and supportive community (just check the disucssions to see how newbies are handled), drive for configurability (exactly what I need if I want to customize the system to my own needs), by default already IMHO the nicest and at the same time reasonably working PDA-like GUI outhere (OpenBox + Matchbox with beautiful icons and working desktop) and mostly working
packages. And people like khazakov and Capn_Fish who compile on request almost anything you need (probably the biggest plus - thanks guys
). r198 seems to be much faster, however there are still some quirks (crappy sound and some broken configurations). And finally, for the PDA usability, there seems to be the biggest configuration support already done for my own games with window manager.
The last advice: do some flashing in order to find out what you want... You probably won't get around it anyway