Android for Desert 2

Abroad’s going mostly well. Initially very busy, now things have slowed down and I’m waiting on others.

I’ve been fiddling with this tablet a lot. It’s been, much to my surprise, really useful.

A Tablet in Industry

As I said previously I really like the size and shape of it. I’ve been using it in my industrial context extensively as a document viewer. 16GB is a large amount of documentation, and having it in the palm of my hand (or pocket) at all times is super useful. I can bring it out and show clients, or staff, drawings to describe something, zooming in on specific areas to highlight important details, or giving an overview of the whole system. The machine can be on all the time, with connectivity off, and afford me several days battery life, compared to my work-assigned laptop’s 1 hour. I can hang it from a rail or mount it somewhere and leave the screen on to use as a reference.

Naturally, when I’m in restricted areas I’m unable to take it (due to the presence of a camera), which is where it falls down compared to paper. It’s also at a disadvantage to paper in that marking documents is harder and it has a battery life.

The primary advantages over paper it has are context and size. All the documentation I require consumes a lot of paper, which in turn is rather voluminous. With this, I can carry it all in a fixed, pocket sized block. If I carry a limited subset of paper, then I don’t have all the information I require at my fingertips. In having all the project documentation, I can describe the same thing in multiple ways, refer to manuals, reports, signed off tests and more. It makes my life much easier and faster, and I can do it in position at a cabinet or piece of equipment, not back in the office at my computer.

It’s really useful and makes me look useful - I think I’ve found this machine’s primary niche.

Linux Progress

I decided to take a long hard look at Linux again on this machine. I’d not only like a fancy document viewer, I’d like a full OS in my pocket. That would solve my workflow issues I mentioned previously. Arch was my target, as there were multirom images available and ALARM is still under active development. At least my Userland will be up to date.

To make this happen, I have wound the system back from Android 5.x series to Android 4.x - Specifically the last Cyanogenmod Nightly from November 2014. According to the xda forums, this is the last time that anyone saw Linux on Multirom working.

Lo and behold, following this guide I had a booting, working arch install. I’ve updated it to the latest & greatest packages and it still boots, but the serial-over-USB functionality has stopped working. I don’t have a USB keyboard I can plug into my USB OTG adaptor into, so this project is essentially stalled until I get back home and have my full range of tools available. It’s also shown something more I need to carry with me!

Debian in a chroot still doesn’t work. Fuck knows what’s up with that, I just can’t be bothered trying it any more.

Future Work

Once I’m home and I have it working again, the next steps are to have the system reliably booting into arch and connecting to my bluetooth keyboard. Once this works I’m pretty sure I’ll be using the machine in a lot of places and people will get sick of seeing it.

There’s also an interesting post in the XDA Thread with a throwaway comment about the F2FS error being an easy fix. I’ll maybe try that and report back in future - I’d like to be running a kernel newer than 3.10. Very possibly I’m going to dip my toe in the world of compiling the Android kernel so I can have it be up to date and suitably patched for Multirom to run. I’m aware that the tablet, as it stands, is vulnerable to all the major exploits uncovered in the last year. I’d like to minimise this exposed surface as much as possible, given I’m carrying potentially confidential information that belongs to my company and my client on this device now.

I want to try running a Wayland compositor on it, but this very much depends on the state of the drivers - SwayWM has caught my interest, given it’s compatible with i3 and should slip into my workflow perfectly. Maybe, though, i3 and the like will be unusable on a 7”, 720p screen and this is all for naught.


i'm hibby · blog ·