torsdag 27 mars 2014

Linux on an x86 tablet

I've for a long time wanted to run Linux on a tablet. Why, because I use Linux on all of my computers. Why not on a tablet? I dislike Android with its app store model. I need a terminal where I can tell the system what to do, select repositories and download the software I want. Even more important: to be able to create my own software and modify the applications and the system.

There are a number of x86 tablets that came on the market around 2011. Most of them were running Windows 7, but some had even x86 Android. Many of them were based on Intel Atom Z670 with GMA600 graphics (Oak Trail tablet platform). I list a couple here in no specific order:

Viewsonic Viewpad 10 and variants
Fujitsu Stylistic Q550
Motion CL900
HP Slate 2
Dell Latitude ST-LST01

The problem with all of these is the dreaded PowerVR graphics chip. Some binary drivers were released at the time, but they don't work anymore with modern linux systems. There is work ongoing to support the Intel Minnowboard, which uses the same chipset. Hopefully there will be 2-D graphics acceleration available at some point.

They are also a bit slow by today's standard, but for my usage, occasional browsing and reading, I think they are still nice. For other things, I use a "real" PC.

A few tablets running Windows with Intel graphics have been released in the last year. They could be a better candidate to run Linux on, but they are still quite expensive.

I wanted to try out, so I bought a used Viewsonic Viewpad 10pi. My next post will examine this tablet. I will provide in-depth info on what works and what not.

Note! Don't rush out and buy these tablets with the intention to run Linux on them. There are still a couple of things that make them hard to use without a lot of work.