GPD Pocket

I have got one from the IndieGoGo project. It’s very nice. Of course, it’s the Ubuntu version.

GPD Pocket (Ubuntu version)

But it’s not perfect. The fan is noisy (not in the values in dB but the sound is not nice) and it is spinning quite often. And the Atom CPU is … the Atom CPU. But it’s OK in most cases, except the Firefox rendering modern WWW pages… But even the FreeCAD is running rather smoothly.

The OS support is acceptable – after some updates the most of stuff work well (except the build-in speaker – it’s strange that headphones works but speaker does not). The only – small but stupid – issue is that the device boots in portrait mode and the (proper)landscape mode has to be set in the Ubuntu settings. The BIOS (or what it is) is also in portrait mode.

The keyboard is relatively good. One can write English texts with ease but the keys required for the Czech language are partially located in the tiny upper row and the “ú” and “ů” are located in unusual and remote positions. I often use the device for taking notes at work so it is an issue for me.

At the moment, I use the device for most of my work outside the office, thus replacing both a PDA (the Sharp Zaurus or the Ubuntu phone for PIM functionality – as the phone has to be turned off on most of meetings it makes little sense to carry it) and the laptop (the Lenovo X260). It is small and light (0.5 kg), it’s very solid and it’s battery life is good (it’s surely better than 6 hours but I haven’t an opportunity to use it for a longer time; the producer declares up to 12 hours).

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GPD Pocket

Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

As you may know, the Canonical (the company which develops Ubuntu) halted all development of the Ubuntu Touch earlier this year. That is, no new devices (phones, tablets) for the Ubuntu Touch systems, no system updates, no new applications. Some users already reinstalled their devices with the Android. And Canonical also halted development of the Mir display server and their complete Unity desktop (all these things were the base of phone GUI system for the Ubuntu Touch).

But there is a great effort of UbPorts folks – it was initially a group interested in porting of the Ubuntu Touch to other devices.
They not only released updated system images for most of previously supported devices but they also working on further development of the system and it’s applications.

Ubuntu Touch on a big screen

There is also a new App Store – the OpenStore was initially meant for applications that cannot obey security rules defined by Canonical (for example apps that need direct access to some hardware) but now it’s a home for all Ubuntu Touch applications. And there is a good flow of new applications: not only most of the interesting applications from old official App Store has been migrated here but also new ones have been appearing.

Of course, there are no new devices but the old can be still used.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

I personally have wo Ubuntu devices: the phone (the bq Aquaris E4.5 – the low-end one) and the tablet (the bq M10HD – the best one available) and both are still useful. The E4.5 is my sole mobile phone and serves me very well. Actually, I haven’t noticed any stability nor other problems in last 12 months. There are some issues with Bluetooth input devices (the GUI may restart after the device is connected) but I haven’t used the keyboard with the phone for a long time (I even lost the keyboard and didn’t noticed that…). The Bluetooth speakers seems to work without such problem. To be honest, I finally have managed to remove all unnecessary stuff from the phone (to save space – it has only 8 GB of storage for everything * including the OS) and not there are only applications that I really use on the phone.

The tablet is an another story – the last update of the Ubuntu (in January 2017, I think) broke the external screen support. So now the X11-based applications work well on an external screen but the native (mostly) fail. So one can use the device in the desktop mode only if the internal (10″) screen is enough for his/her needs. There is also still the issue related to virtual keyboard for X11 applications – only specially prepared ones can use in. So the Firefox and the OpenOffice are OK but applications which are installed by the user can only work with an external hardware keyboard. And it limit’s the device usefulness on the move. This is not ideal, but for light work it may be OK.

So I actually use both devices: the phone on a daily basis and the M10 tablet mainly for testing of new applications and for lighter tasks (for example, it’s still better for WWW browsing than any of my computers except the Lenovo X61). During holidays I even used it as a desktop (on a stand with a keyboard, a mouse attached and speakers attached) without issues. It can use also the USB keyboard and mouse the GUI works without restart if no Bluetooth is involved…) but then it cannot be charged at the same time.

I’m still not brave enough to reflash my M10 tablet with the new system image from UbPort…

So things are not that bad as they may look.

Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

Remembering Palm Foleo

You might remember that around 2007 there was announcet an interesting palm product – a Foleo mobile companion. Essentially a subnotebook with Linux which has designed as an add-n to the Palm Treo smartphones. The Foleo had a comfortable keyboard, a large screen (at least compared to the Treo’s screen) and worked as an extension of the phone. It has it’s own WWW browser (which most probably wasn’t dependent on the phone) and used e-email, calendar and office applications shared with the phone.

The main idea was that user should be able to works with it’s data, e-mails and documents or on the phone or on a larger but still very portable device. Tehere is a lot of places where laptop-style device can be used: in trains, in airports, hotels and so.

Palm Foleo from Wikipedia/Wikimedia

Well, the things went wrong as in the same time the netbook hype was started (do you remember the Eee stuff from ASUS? – after all, some of their netbooks were very nice – we still have Eee 901 at home and it still has some use). The netbooks has similar size and battery life but they were much more universal than a very specialised and phone-bound Foleo. Thus the Palm decided to kill the product.

Anyway, some of the machines got to the wild. On can find photos at Flickr or even auctions with never used Foleo.

Well, the Foleo is dead (and the Palm itself is dead, too) and it is irreversible. But is there a modern device with similar idea. Well, two of them: these Chromebooks have somevhat similar idea – they are WWW browser-centered devices. They are less bound to a phone, though.
But there is a something called Superbook which is pretty close – it’s a notebook-style device which is actually an extension of an Androuid phone. I’m a bit curious how it will be succesfull.

Remembering Palm Foleo

Keyboard and case for phone

It is obvious that the phone has to have a proper case. Even the Ubuntu Touch phone should have one. So I have got one (the Piel Frama Universal Book case for 5″ devices). That’s an expensive one (actually it cost me much more than the phone itself – I’m always late so I have had to get my phone as a second hand item – it was sold out before I decided to get it…).

There is not much to be said about the case – just that it is better to get a 5″ one even if the Aquaris has 4.5″ screen – the 4.5″ case seems to be small for this phone but 5″ case is perfect. The case is of very high quality and protects the phone very well. The “notebook” position is stable enough, too. But it’s something that is expected from the Piel Frama, isn’t it?

The colour is orange – they offer only 3 colours for this case (orange, black and maroon). The black is too boring and the maroon is too strange. So I have got the orange.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

It is a less obvious to have the Bluetooth keyboard. It’s useful in situations when a table is available and a long text has to be entered. As I damaged my Stowaway one, now I have to use the Jorno keyboard. It’s expensive when new (once more, I have hot mine as a second hand item) but you can find the some device with a different branding and for lower price (I’m not sure what is copy and what is the original as the history of the Jorno is unclear to me).

It’s small, it’s hinges make no problems during writing (they look more terrible than they actually are) but the keys are smaller than normal and the Esc is only available as Fn+Esc, which is stupid. So writing needs more attention but it is still quite comfortable. The tactile feedback is nice (much better than on the most of mobile and notebook keyboards).

There is one caveat: only the centre of the keyboard is in contact with the desk. The left and the right parts are in the air. So if you have to press mre on the wings (well, the Esc+Fn is this case) then the keyboard may become unstable. Only a small movement is possible but still it is disturbing. So some training is probably needed here.

The biggest issue is, of course, the phone itself – the text can be entered via keyboard (including language-specific characters – the Czech just works!) but many of GUI things cannot be controlled via the keyboard and screen tapping is sometimes necessary. But Unity bar can be accessed easily and te Alt+Tab and the Alt+F4 shortcuts work as expected.

Anyway, it’s hard to say if I’m satisfied with the whole thing or not…

Keyboard and case for phone

KVM

There is little new here – except one thing: after many years I have finally managed to make full use of my KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) mechanical switch. It means that I have connected four keyboards and four mouses (I don’t use the video part at all as an acceptable picture is only guaranteed for resolution no higher than 1024×768 and my worst LCD is 1280×1024).

So what is connected:

  1. SGI O2
  2. SGI Indy
  3. Intel Compute Stick (my Linux PC)
  4. SGI IRIS Indigo

It’s an old mechanical PS/2 + VGA switch so it works in most cases (the Stick requires USB to PS/2 converter).

As you may expect, most time I use the !. and the 3. Other boxes are used sometimes (the Indy is much quieter than the O2 but also much slower and the Indigo I have just because I always wanted to have such thing).

KVM

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5

As I wrote on Gopher, I have got a wireless keyboard (Bluetooth-compatible) – the Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra. It’s externally almost identical to these ThingOutside keyboards which were designed to use with old good Palm handhelds (I personally have Palm III-compatible one but I’m not sure if there was version compatible with older Palm machines).

So it’s rather small and compact. The main difference is that there is no Palm-style connector. Instead there is a space for AAA battery and for Bluetooth electronics. The stand for the device is located at the bottom of the keyboard and it is used detached.

Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra + bq Aquaris E4.5

As I have the keyboard for just a few days but it seems that it have eaten my alkaline battery in two weeks (I have no idea if the battery was OK initially so I will have to investigate this issue a bit more).

The biggest issue of the keyboard probably is its glossy metal enclosure (every tap of finger is visible here). It’s not a problem during use as these parts are on the bottom (they are visible only when the keyboard is folded).

The size was ideal when if was new: it is just about size of a Zaurus PDA and just lightly bigger than a Palm III. However, my current device (bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition) is much more slim and it is not so wide.

The typing on the keyboard is OK. It is foldable and it has 3 hinges and these hinges havesome influence on keyboard stiffness (my Palm-compatible one is stiffer and it less deformed in the center – I assume that is is related to what this particular piece of keyboard was shored and handled in the past).
The keys have normal size and distances. They have a short travel when pressed but it is comparable with normal notebook keyboard (yes, old ThinkPad keyboard is better but not much). There is even a numeric row. So typing (even in an arcane language like Czech) is easy and comfortable. The only important missing key is Esc (Fn+Tab here) and the right Shift and Enter are alightly smaller than
usual.

Of course, the non-standard Esc is a problem for us, active vi/vim users…

I typed this text on that keyboard which was connected to by E4.5 phone without issues (no missing/doubled letters and so). The only problem is too agressive energy-saving policy (the interval to disconnect the keyboard is too short) but
it should be an issue of the phone OS (the OTA-13 Ubuntu update didn’t changed this behaviour, by the way).

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5