I love the Tablet PC – And Ubuntu runs on it

As I’ve blogged before, I am in the search for a new computer and have decided to get a laptop and a desktop to meet all of my needs. I will probably end up using a Mirra or something similar (NAS) to get my machines in sync. On the laptop side, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a convertible Tablet PC. To me, a convertible Tablet gives you the best of both worlds – It’s a laptop that has all of the functionality of the traditional laptop and yet can covert to a slate Tablet when needed.

I’ve wanted to try-out a Tablet PC before I buy it and so my brother was kind enough to loan me his Toshiba M4 Tablet and it only took 3 months of begging, nagging, threats and the other usual incentives to finally get the Tablet. :) To annoy me, he installed the first beta of Vista Tablet on his machine which made it pretty much useless. In Vista’s defense, this was the 1st beta of Vista Tablet and the installer was my brother. I don’t think I need to say anymore. ;)

So I install Windows XP Tablet edition to really see what the magic is all about and I am completely in love. While I used the Tablet in a conventional laptop mode most of the time, I loved the fact that I was sitting on my couch reading blogs using my pen. While I haven’t tried it yet, I think reading an eBook on the Tablet would work really well and the mobility and folding form-factor would make it ideal for reading on the couch or in bed. My only hesitation is trying to figure out if I should jump now or wait for the dual-core Tablet PCs to ship.

On a whim and with no football on TV to suck up my time, I decided to install Ubuntu on the Tablet PC. The word Ubuntu is based on an African word meaning ‘humanity to others’ and it is a freely available Linux-based operating system with both community and professional support. Ubuntu is very easy to install and use and I am always amazed at how easy the install process and just how usable it is as a client machine. On the Toshiba M4 Tablet, I just reboot with the Ubuntu install CD in the drive and reboot. Upon boot, I answer a few simple questions about disk portioning and the installer goes away and installs the OS. While there is no support for Tablet like functionality in the Ubuntu at this moment, Ubuntu worked like a charm using the M4 as a traditional laptop. I shouldn’t be but I continue to be amazed as just how easy it is to use Linux on the desktop.

Screenshot of the desktop

I haven’t been a supporter of Linux on the desktop as all the attempts in the past never passed my parents test – Could I install RedHat or Slackware or Debian or any other Linux distribution on my parent’s computer and leave them alone with it? I never thought so – Granted, they can’t fix all the Windows issues they run into but there are a lot more people that can possibly help them with that vs. Linux. And I consider myself a Linux guy. I’ve been running Linux in one form or another since 1991 when I built my first Linux server at Marquette University that was running v0.9x kernel as part of the SLS distribution. A few years after that, I ran the Marquette University webserver on my personal Linux box (386 – 40 MHz) for a few years before people ‘got it’ and officially started supporting my efforts. In fact, I have introduced Linux in EVERY single company I’ve worked for since the early days with great success I might add. :) So it’s great to see a Linux distribution that’s useable and pretty that rocks.

By the way, I took some pictures of the computer and have them on up on Flickr. Check out the Tablet PC set or view them as a slideshow.

Tablet+PC, Tablet, Microsoft, Toshiba, toshiba+m4, dual-core, laptop, mirra, NAS, linux, ubuntu, flickr

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • That’s pretty cool. Can you use ink under ubuntu?

  • Hi James and thanks. And no – Couldn’t use ink or any of the ‘tablety’ features with the exception of swinging the screen around, etc.. I know IBM is going to support Linux on their X41 tablet but Ubuntu doesn’t at the moment. It would be pretty cool to get Tablet support for Linux, across all distributions as Apple appears to be coming out with a Tablet as well.

  • I “got it” and unofficially supported your linux efforts right away!

  • Hi Erik. Don’t you miss the good ol’ days :) I was going to email you as I found the old sites in the Wayback machine at archives.org. Check out this link to a little trip down memory lane

  • I can confirm that Ubuntu does have touchscreen functionality. I have an Acer TravelMate C110 which uses a Wacom touchscreen. The drivers can be downloaded from Synaptic or apt-get, and with a quick edit of the xorg.conf I had the touchscreen working with no problems.

  • Hey Vinny I just got my Toshiba Tecra’s tablet input working fine with Ubuntu…. You may have this already sorted out, but for what its worth, I posted a Noob how-to down at my blog!

    Direct Link is: http://clipperisms.blogspot.com/2006/05/getting-toshiba-tablet-input-to-work.html

  • Hello, I just got my Toshiba Tecra M4 SP645 Tablet PC to work under Ubuntu 6.

    The tablet input works; I can’t get the secondary button present in the pen to work though. I’ll try to investigate.
    So far I know of now “virtual ink” apps. I will also look that up.

    To get the tablet working under Ubuntu 6 (“Dapper Drake”), all I had to do was editing the xorg.conf file and changing all the

    Option “Device” “/dev/wacom”

    lines to:

    Option “Device” “/dev/ttyS4″

    Hope this helps, since the link up there seems to be broken.

    Cheers

  • Hi, vinny,
    did you have problems with the fan by any chance? I’ve just moved from gentoo to ubuntu and my fan never seems to stop, and my machine looks like its overheating.

    Strange since a kernel is a kernel and i dont understand why the distro i use should make any difference.

    cheers
    mo

  • Hi any idea wat linux is compatible with tablet pc and can u post the link
    Thanx

  • System:
    Toshiba Tecra M7 Tablet PC (laptop)

    Operating System:
    Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn!

    Supports: Almost everything inc.
    Touchpad (enable/disable tapping, etc)
    SoundCard
    nVidia Graphic Card
    Intel Wireless a/b/g pro card
    Digitizer/Pointer (Wacom)
    Screen Rotate (after tweaking)

    To get few things to work right you might need to spend few hours googling though.

    Things that i uninstalled after installing Ubuntu ?? Guess what ? Yes… VISTA..

  • I just bought a Fujitsu ST4110 Tablet (used) and it has the dreaded Vista installed. Worse even, it's Vista Business Edition which makes it slow as molasses.I have a set of CDs for Ubuntu 9. Should I take the chance and install it?