First Impressions of the Pengpod 7″ Linux Tablet

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Pengpod 7-inch Linux Tablet First Impressions

James Dinsmore February 13, 2013

I am not usually an early adopter of technology. Having an extensive background in product development I have come to expect a few generations of buggy software before every problem is ironed out; thus my preference is to let others suffer buyer’s remorse and endless frustration waiting for tech support. Somehow I lapsed and broke my long-standing rule and was first in line for ‘the first Linux tablet’ on the market.

Maybe it was the excitement of crowd funding that pulled me in. I love Ubuntu Linux on desk and laptops; so much so that I purged 2 of them of Windows XP. That did not happen overnight; for the last decade I would give the latest iteration of Linux a shot, dual booting so I could safely revert back to Microsoft. Year after year the Linux user experience was just below my level of expectation until around 2011. A lot of credit goes to the tireless efforts of Canonical and others to make it world-class.

Since the Pengpod is based on a derivative of Ubuntu called ‘Linaro’ I foolishly expected it to provide a similar (lovely, pleasant, elegant, pleasurable) experience to Ubuntu 12.10 (my expectations were too high!) Keyboard and mouse operations have been highly refined through many years of improvements: touch screen interfaces are relatively new. Android has had 10 years of production to refine their art on phones and tablets, and they have done very well. When I first pulled my Pengpod out of the box and turned it on, the first time it came up as an Android tablet rather than as a Linux device; so I tried it out, set up my E-mail, Face Book and other accounts easily under their intuitive interface. Then I inserted the Linux SD card and rebooted into the Pengpod Linux: how can I state it delicately? {OMG—it SUCKS!}

The cursor stubbornly sticks to an arbitrary point on the screen, unresponsive to touch, useless. On the bottom tool bar you can touch an icon and bring up the Chromium Web browser, but touching the little white block does not bring up a virtual keypad (as the Android does); it does nothing. The tablet’s ‘desktop’ has a virtual keypad app, but going back and forth between it and any other application that requires a log on and PW is a nightmare. The whole feel is clunky, retro, and like something I would imagine came out of Ebolia (made-up post Soviet country with minimal resources).

 I plucked out the SD card and returned the tablet to Android 4.0. After a few days of playing with it I began to wonder why the world needs tablets anyway? Like a cell phone with a thyroid problem, that cannot make calls…what is all of the fuss? I do not play games, and am not planning to watch entertainment on it. In part, I purchased this tablet because, as a Web Developer, I ought to know what my sites look like on all sizes of displays (to make sure my adaptive displays are working). However, the real reason was to encourage the growth of Linux as a versatile OS. So I do not want this article to discourage the group that developed the Pengpod: if you keep working at it you will get there. To be successful it has to provide an equal or better user experience to the Android or people (even nerdy Linux fanatics) won’t put up with it.

General specifications:

Compact, fully featured tablet 7 inch tablet. All the features you expect in a small size, capacitive touch screen, camera and more.

Linux-Android-Dual boot with SD card

 7″-800×480-HDMI-1gB/8GB-1 USB OTG-WiFi

1.3M Front Camera-Speakers-3.3Ah Battery

http://www.pengpod.com/

 “Really, it’s not the hardware that Peacock is pushing. It’s the software. The goal is to provide folks with a range of low-cost Linux computing options. Peacock needs funding to improve Linux support for some important hardware bits in the tablets, like their hardware buttons, accelerometers, and webcams.”

http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/pengpods-inexpensive-linux-tablets-cleared-for-takeoff-2012123/

 “Ubuntu-based Linaro is the standard Linux distribution offered with the device, but “I also plan to offer an openSUSE image for download for those that want to try Plasma or KDE,” Peacock Imports’ Neal Peacock explains in a forum on the site.”

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2018343/the-true-linux-pengpod-line-will-ship-in-january.html

 My other interests: http://jamesdinsmoreblogs.blogspot.com/

 

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7 comments

  1. Sorry to hear it’s so rough around the edges. Do you have root in Android out of the box? The AOSP sources and Android SDK or one of the custom Android ROM builds and/or source should get you up to 4.2 Jelly Bean/Latest Android version. Post Ice-Cream (>4.0) is a much smoother ride, even on my Nook Color. Overclocked to 1.2 Ghz , rarely throttles back on temp, very snappy still. Even with Android 4.0 you can still make calls over wifi w/GrooveIP and Google voice. Bluetooth hacks on 4.0 are still very finicky depending on headset/accessory used. Jelly Bean is a huge improvement. I use my Nexus 7 stock and my Nook Color on CM10.x Wanna try Paranoid’s ROM but haven’t gotten around to it.

    Have you tried to roll your own Ubuntu/Debian build using their’s or others’ ARM linux sources? Is this running an ARM10 cpu? Might be able to roll your own with way better results. Might be interested in working on it with you if you’d like.

  2. These 2 sites may help, may even find a prebuilt kernel, that or just tweak the config:

    http://romanrm.ru/en/a10/cross-compile-kernel

    and

    https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ARM/TabletList

    Haven’t gotten around to an Ubuntu/Debian or other build on my Nook Color but am game. Gotta a spare SD card around here somewhere….

  3. [...] James Dinsmore says the PengPod 7 inch tablet works reasonably well when running Android, but the Linaro-based Linux environment is much clunkier. He reports the touchscreen and on-screen keyboard are clunky and difficult to use. [...]

  4. [...] James Dinsmore says a PengPod 7 in. inscription works pretty good when using Android, though a Linaro-based Linux sourroundings is most clunkier. He reports a touchscreen and on-screen keyboard are clunky and formidable to use. [...]

  5. [...] James Dinsmore says the PengPod 7 inch tablet works reasonably well when running Android, but the Linaro-based Linux environment is much clunkier. He reports the touchscreen and on-screen keyboard are clunky and difficult to use. [...]

  6. I have a Linaro-flashed 7″ PengPod. I’ll probably flash Android onto it and give it to one of my kids – the Linux experience is a disaster. And it doesn’t have Bluetooth, so the one USB/OTG port is taken up by the keyboard case plug.

  7. Definitely agree on the “usefulness” of a linux tablet. Linux was not designed for touchscreen interfaces and after messing with linaro myself, this was the most frustrating experience ever even with a touchscreen. Well, controls are small because of the screen scaling, sure thunderbird, libreoffice works but when software simply breaks after installing one package having to find a solution to the plethora of bugs in the operating system and open source software, in the end, the productivity simply isn’t there. X crashes frequently and in the middle of document processing, browsing or just whenever the f*** it feels like.
    Have yet to find a decent linux distro for tablets. So far, coming up totally empty.
    The learning experience was pretty cool, but the amount of time needed to set it up is daunting.
    Not worth it at all IMHO.

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