Indeed, one can have less or more complete UNIX environment in the Ubuntu Touch device. Direct use of the “apt-get” is not recommended as the filesystem is purposely made read-only. But it is possible set up and to use chroot environment and the have a separate system for the tools.
A nice guide is here.
There are limitations, of course. You have a separate space with no link from inside to outside and there is no (simple) way to use GUI or graphical applications. But most of CLI stuff works well (the Octave, the GCC, the Lynx and the Links, the Vim and so on).
Yes, I do have one of these. It is cool to have a real Ubuntu tablet. But don’t expect any wonders.
A few first impressions and notes:
- It isn’t fast. The performance is rather average. But it was expected, I think. So no problem here.
- There is a XMir to run full Xorg-based applications. But they look ugly (no theme is applied on them).
- One cannot use virtual keyboard for these Xorg application. Just a Bluetooth one (so no Firefox or OpenOffice.org in the tablet mode…).
- There is no way to switch layouts of the hardware keyboard at the moment. One can use, for example, a Czech keyboard (and it works well) but it is niot possible to change it to an English one in an easy way. It is delcared as a work in progress.
- One cannot install more Xorg applications in an easy way. This isn’t nice. So you will be limited to the Gimp, the Firefox, the OpenOffice and the Gedit.
More on that topic later. I don’t say that I’m not happy with my tablet. But there is a bit more limitiations that I expected.
I have realised that I use my Palm III relatively frequently. Aclually, I have it sits on my desk all the time. There are some applications that I used imore frequently in the past (the EasyCalc or the DopeWars) and I also limited to use its PIM functions (a calendar, a to-do list or the notetaking appliication). I also don’t read e-books on the Palm as frequently as I did before ten years.
But I still have some use for this tiny computer. It is used to store of passwords as I don’t want so save some of them in the machines connected to the Internet (well, one can use any Zaurus for that, too).
I also use it for some BASIC programming. It’s mostly done for fun as the pen-based input is slightly complicated for this use. Anyway, I have (and use) a portable keyboard for the Palm. It makes code writing much faster. I have an older version (0.6) of the SmallBASIC installed. It can be used to write not only text-based programs but also for graphical ones (but not GUI-based). The speed of interpretation is not guite good (its fast enough for most of my needs, much faster than BASIC on my Elektronika computers).
But the main use of the Palm is a bit different. In these days I often don’t have too furf the web. So I do batch download of several pages of my interest and then read them on the Palm. I use Plucker application for this. The web pages can be converted to the Plucker format by the jPluck application, for example (yes, it uses Java, it is slow, old and unsecure). Of course, it is necessary to do not include the images due to space limitations of the Palm (the Plucker supports images, even color ones – but my Palm screen on ly recognises a few shades of gray). Then the pages can be transferred to the Palm via the pilot-xfer tool.
The reading is easy, the Plucker viewer is quite straightforward. It has several nice features: the parts of the viewed texts can be copied to the Palms integrated Memo application. And the unaccessible web links can be exported too.
The text export is prety usefull if one has to try some basic codes, for example from i-logout.cz. And the link export is even more usefull – the memos can be synchronised (I’m lasy to use command line tool for that so I use the JPilot) with the desktop applications and then opened in the WWW browser. I’m doing this with some action servers: I copy results of my standard search routine to the Palm for offline viewing and when I have the time then I open just the interesting items on the desktop.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to abandon my Linux gadgets and use the Palm exclusively: this text was written on the Zaurus during in a train…
Sometimes it is needed to convert some modern office formats (docx, xlsx) to something that can be read by older devices (odt, ods, rtf, doc, xls,..). The LibreOffice can be used for that. There are some discussions related to the topic.
So if you have a LibreOffice Calc (and an Unix shell) installed then you can convert a bunch of XLSX files to older XLS with this script:
for aa in *.xlsx ; do localc --nologo --convert-to xls $aa ; done
Obviously, the localc is the LibreOffice Calc program. Other programs can be used accordingly (for DOCX the Writer, for PPTX the Impress):
for aa in *.docx ; do lowriter --nologo --convert-to doc $aa ; done
for aa in *.pptx ; do loimpress --nologo --convert-to ppt $aa ; done
I have made a better screenshot of the RockWork software on my Ubuntu Touch phone. The funny thing is that the smartwatch screen (which you can see) is simply the latest screenshot of the real watch (the RockWork has a nice functionality for saving of screenshots from the connected watch).
It seems that most of things works: upgrading of a Pebble OS, software installations and configurations, phone’s calendar integration with the TimeLine, and more. I don’t use the Pebble for notifications so I cannot comment how good it is. I just synchronize the smartwatch with my phone once per few days. For this type of use the RockWork is even better than the official smartphone application.
The official app can also put weather forecast to the TimeLine which I miss a bit.
I’m writing this in a train. On a Zaurus. Of course. Actually, I have had my notebook with me (a 17″ Dell Vostro) and I used it for some work-related stuff (word processing and a spreadsheet work). It made sense this time as the travel time was quite comfortable (in the normal working hours) and the rest of my moving was done by public transport. There were no longer walks with a heavy laptop.
Anyway, when the work was finished then I moved the notebook to the bag and opened the Zaurus as it occupies much less space. Then I was able to put a cup of tea and a snack on the small table in the train. And the Zaurus is enough for some writing and hobby programming, you know.
I also have had a Ben NanoNote with me. I wanted to test its WiFi card… and it still works. But it’s keyboard is much less ergonomic than the keyboard of the Zaurus so I used the Ben mostly as music player this time. As I forgot to get a CF WiFi card for the Zaurus, I had to use the NanoNote to sync the stuff with the Git (I don’t know it the Zaurus WiFi can work at all – it’s the old “b” standard and event if it will do then the Zaurus, of course, cannot run the Git). Then I pulled the microSD card from the Zaurus and inserted it to the NanoNote to copy the data. It’s a bit stupid solution but it works (the microSD card is a 1 GB one which can be accepted by the Zaurus: bigger cards don’t work).
In theory it should be possible to replace both machines with a smart phone. For example with the Ubuntu one. In practice, this doesn’t work. The phone has no comfortable keyboard and it’s screen is uncomfortably tall. Also the approach of isolated applications (which has been adopted by all phone OS vendors) only makes desktop-style use of phones more complicated. In a contrast with this, both the Zaurus and the NanoNote are actually pocket-sized unix workstations (the Zaurus is more close to that), albeit with strange user interfaces (there is no viable X11 suppport). The TeX and the gcc works well were, and many other traditional tools work (the Gnuplot, for example), too. There are no problems with isolated applications directories – a normal system of unix access rights is applied here.
More on this topic after the next train journey…
Among others, I have an old and semi-working Zaurus SL-C750. I got it mainly for some experiments. It has damaged sound chip and its cosmetic conditions are also quite poor. Also the hinges are not perfect. I also got it with a poor battery. Except these issues the device works well (a perfect screen and a keyboard, working data card slots and no stability issues).
I initially installed a high-capacity battery (the same that is in C3xxx and C1xxx models) and a larger battery doors. But I find that this Zaurus is not used frequently so the bigger battery is probably not necessary. It was also my oldest battery and the most heavily used one – an original one – which was removed from my SL-C3200 Zaurus. So it’s remaining capacity was also quite limited.
On the other side, it makes sense to have a slimmer Zaurus for infrequent use (the SL-C3200 is quite thick for my liking). So I have found a new small battery (an original replacement part for Zauri) and put it into the device.
So the Zaurus is now a bit lighter and much thinner and thus easier to handle.
The battery life is a big unknown now. It should be expected that it should allow about 3 hours of continuous use (which is enough for my typical use) or even more. The sleep time may be more important. Now I only know that 12 hours of sleeeping resulted in use o 5% of the battery capacity.
I tried to put a Hitachi Microdrive (a real harddisk in a small form factor) to the CompactFlash slot and use it for some compilations. It resulted is use of 15% of battery in about 15 minutes. The HDD is power-hungry so it’s seems to be OK.
A first week long use indicates that even with the small battery it can survive whole week in suspend without charging. And the second week of use was the same – no problems with battery life. That’s nice. As I use the Zaurus infrequently it means that I can have it always ready for use without being too worried about an empty battery.