torstai 2. kesäkuuta 2011

First impressions

Couple of days ago I got my hands on a WeTab tablet computer. It's an Atom based, 3G and WiFi enabled machine with 11.6 inch multitouch display, and -- most importantly -- open OS. It ships with MeeGo based thing called "WeTab OS", but at least in principle it should be possible to replace that one with something more pleasing to the eye.

Granted, the built-in OS is already pretty nice: boots up quickly, connecting to WiFi is simple, supports Flash, PDF, OGG, etc. out of the box, and so on. The only thing is the user interface. It's not really very polished. For example, the main desktop view seems to be designed only for the landscape mode use. And the virtual keyboard just is not as good as it could. So, maybe this thing would look better with Gnome 3 and the Maliit keyboard? I know jonnor has done it, so why not try myself? And while at it, why not document what I do, so others could avoid all the mistakes I'm bound to make? So, on to it.

Step 1: Google for instructions. I want to install Ubuntu to this baby, so let's see if I can find something with "wetab ubuntu". Sure enough, there's already a blog about Ubuntu installation to WeTab. This was easy. Now I just need to follow those instructions.

  1. Download Ubuntu. I don't want to use the 10.10 though, since I want to have Gnome 3. So I got the latest one (11.04, 32-bit). Check.
  2. Download the universal Ubuntu installer. What's that? I guess this means the installation ISO image. But I just did that. Hmm.. maybe this isn't going to be all that simple. Time to think.
The Ubuntu download page has instructions on how to make a bootable USB stick. Since I already have access to a working Ubuntu installation, this is actually really simple: download the ISO image, insert a USB stick, launch "Startup Disk Creator" from the system administration menu, choose the downloaded ISO file and the inserted USB disk partition, then just push a button and let the program do its thing. Even I can do that.

So, now I had managed to create the bootable stick. Next step: boot from it and try running Ubuntu from there, just to make sure all the hardware is properly recognized. The blog I found had good instructions on how to boot from USB stick. Basically the procedure is:
  1. Power of the tablet
  2. Insert the stick to an available USB socket
  3. Power on the tablet
  4. Immediately when the blue led turns on, push power button and quicktouch button together for one second, no more! (The quicktouch button is the ring in the touch screen's top left corner)
The only problem is that it didn't work for me. Maybe the USB stick is too slow to wake up and is just not recognized during that short period of time the tablet looks for it, or maybe something else is wrong. No matter how I tried, I never managed to get the thing to boot from the USB.

So, a little more googling, and I found a Meego wiki page describing how to install the MeeGo handset image to WeTab. That page suggests installing a whole new boot manager to the WeTab and then using that one to boot from the USB. I guess I'll try that next.

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