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Android Hardware Linux

PengPod Crowdfunding a Tablet Made With OS-Switching In Mind 93

Posted by timothy
from the machine-that-goes-peng dept.
PengPod is running a crowdfunder to create a GNU Linux/Android tablet, the PengPod 1040. This is their second such product; the first was mentioned on Slashdot last year. PengPod has pledged to make all source and tools used to build the images available, so users can build their own OS top to bottom to guarantee that it's free of NSA tracking. The PengPod has previously found some success as a low-cost touch platform for industrial/commercial control systems and is partnered with ViewTouch, the original inventors of the graphical POS to offer PengPod1040s as restaurant register systems. The feature that the developers seem keenest to emphasize is that the PengPod is built to run conventional desktop Linux distros without special hacking required; Android is the default OS, but it's been tested with several others (including Ubuntu Touch) listed on their Indiegogo page.
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PengPod Crowdfunding a Tablet Made With OS-Switching In Mind

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  • If you're going to install a Linux distribution on the thing anyway, why not just run Android in a VM which eliminates the need to reboot to switch operating systems?

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Why run a VM when you can just switch OSs?
      • Re:Why switch? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:22PM (#45097221)

        Why run a VM when you can just switch OSs?

        Because rebooting any time I want to do any of the following sounds a lot less convenient than hitting a button to switch from the host environment to the VM and back again:

        That way if someone emails you a document or presentation you can save it to your device in Android, reboot into Linux and run LibreOffice or another office app to edit it. Or if you’re using Ubuntu and want to watch Netflix or use Skype, you can reboot into Android to do that.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          yeah.. and why the fuck would you want to reboot to view netflix or skype both of which you can do from x86 linux? in case of skype you would want to keep it online anyways.

          even better however would be to just run the android apps inside the linux side totally negating the need for vm(apart from dalvik itself) to run the apps.

    • Re:Why switch? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kLimePie (3031053) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:00PM (#45097075)
      VM's have a performance penalty. What's the state of virtualization in the ARM world anyway? Mere emulation similar to what you find in the Android SDK will run faster, but you won't get the full Android experience. Running Linux in a chroot inside the Android host might be a better option performance-wise, but the Android kernel and userland have quirks not found in desktop Linux.
      • VM's have a performance penalty.

        Given how Android limits the scope of applications (and the APIs and resources that these applications can access), why should an Android VM necessarily have a performance penalty? All the "pure Java" stuff at least could run in a "Userspace Android" process that would expose the APIs to the apps and the apps wouldn't know the difference. Apps with native code...well, that would probably require *some* dynamic translation of native code, but probably not nearly as much as running a full OS in a VirtualBox o

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the odds on this being the NSA's way to keep tabs on people who want to avoid NSA tracking?

  • What? Does this table have no cell or networking capability?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The project doesn't make any mention of the NSA. That's timmy inserting irrelevant editorial.

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @06:55PM (#45097037)

        The project doesn't make any mention of the NSA. That's timmy inserting irrelevant editorial.

        And isn't even a valid point -- no one can audit every line of code in every piece of software they run - the linux kernel itself has over 5 million lines of code, and that doesn't even include applications.

        Even if you were certain that the code itself was clean, how do you know you can trust the firnware in the device, the compiler you're using to compile the code, and even your own computer?

        If you went back to a 1960's era wirewrapped computer [wikipedia.org], you might have some hope at validating the operating system and hardware, but there's no way for an individual to be 100% certain that a modern computer is free of software and hardware back doors when the bad guys could have compromised the hardware locked inside of the core chips that run the device.

        • no one can audit every line of code in every piece of software they run - the linux kernel itself has over 5 million lines of code, and that doesn't even include applications.

          You can always run Oberon. No need to go to 1960s.

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            no one can audit every line of code in every piece of software they run - the linux kernel itself has over 5 million lines of code, and that doesn't even include applications.

            You can always run Oberon. No need to go to 1960s.

            On what hardware? How far back in time do you need to go to be sure that the BIOS in your network card isn't installing a keylogging hook?

            I picked 1960's because that was when you could trace the wirewrapped wires and discrete logic that build your computer. And you could toggle in the bootloader yourself on the front panel before loading your carefully vetted operating system image from paper tape. You could even read the binary from the paper tape yourself if you wanted to.

            Though I imagine that you'd need

            • On what hardware?

              Oberon can run on pretty much anything. If you want to build your own hardware, I suppose it's best to buy some breadboardable parts of very diverse provenance. The more exotic the better. Regarding shielding, that's a no-brainer. If you're paranoid enough to run OTA (a good idea for many people anyway), a nice shielded box is exactly what you'd use.

    • You have to excuse Timmeh. He'a an idiot. PengPod doesn't give any such "guarantee". Timmeh just thinks he's smart and witty by inserting the NSA into the topic.

      • by chill (34294)

        No, sadly that bit is actually in the PengPod video on their page.

      • by drachensun (2766139) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:25PM (#45097243)
        I'm part of the PengPod project, I thought I should come to Timothy's defense. We throw the no NSA thing around in the marketing because we directly share, or use common open source distributions that share, all the source in the machine. For the bootloader, u-boot, kernel up to the user space. We share all the Apache licensed parts as well. In this way, you can review and audit all the code, unlike with many Android devices where their Android modifications are hidden. Of course, as the above points out we cannot actually audit the entire existing code base. Also we don't have source for the 3D acceleration libraries but they aren't required for any uses. Since we provide all the tools to create your own images, the device can be flashed without those.
  • by mythosaz (572040) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @06:45PM (#45096973)

    Well, we tried, but we didn't ham-handedly mention the NSA in 100% of headlines today. There's always tomorrow, folks.

  • Archaic Workflow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @06:52PM (#45097017)
    Saving a spreadsheet downloaded in Android, then rebooting into Linux to edit it, then rebooting back into Android to send it back with a touch-centric email client, or any similar workflow seems rather archaic. It's like over a decade ago when on occasion I would absolutely have to reboot into Windows to get something done - it was annoying (and destroyed my uptime!). Further, you need a keyboard and mouse to operate this device under Linux - at least that's what the demo video shows, and I don't see how it could be done any other way (in a practical sense).

    This is the total wrong approach. Now that Android is making it's way onto desktop type machines, perhaps it's time to look at porting applications like LibreOffice and Gimp over to Android. You would still want to plug in a keyboard and mouse to use them, but at least you wouldn't have to reboot multiple times in order to complete what amounts to a single task. Also, it would be nice to drop my phone into a dock that connects it to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard - but only if I have desktop applications available. If for some Android OS-centric technical reason, porting full scale apps makes no sense, then it's time to look at some kind of practical OS hybridization. Not to mention the time is now to steal Microsoft's thunder and if we don't make such moves now, I can't promise it will still be that time in two or three years.
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      The challenge to Android on the desktop (or laptop) is mostly the desktop GUI, not app adoption.

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        ??? - 3rd party Android GUI's are a dime a dozen. It would not take a tremendous amount of effort to develop something that is more of a compromise. But why would I even want to use it in a desktop capacity without desktop apps? I happen to require those apps. I think you're missing the point entirely: this is the problem this project is trying to solve in the first place. Only they are going about it wrong. If you don't believe me, watch their demonstration video.
        • by mythosaz (572040)

          Android launchers are a dime a dozen.

          Android desktops, those that can display multiple apps correctly (so you can look at your reference material while you work on your spreadsheet) are mostly a collection of kludges and hacks, with little support from the apps that are supposed to run in them.

    • Re:Archaic Workflow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:12PM (#45097165) Homepage

      then why not just get one of the gazillion inexpensive Android tablets that already saturate the market? ...and talk about archaic...why not just use google docs for your "office" needs? oh, you don't like the cloud that's ok i suppose.

      i'm sure you know you can run all sorts of Android VMs in virtualbox or whatever...Android on the desktop is already here.

      its probably only a matter of time before important OS apps get ported.

      and i agree...duel boot is a pita.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VVelox (819695)

        Because Google Docs sucks compared to a proper editor. Why do I want to be beholden to a closed sourced editor running on hardware outside of my control? If I wanted that I would be running a Microsoft product.

    • sounds like your doing it wrong. If I was in android mode and received a spreadsheet i wanted to work on then libre office would probably be a good choice and i would switch to linux to do so.

      There is no need from that point to use anything but linux for the rest of that task. If you use the sdcard as a common data area. you would be able to load the spreadsheet from both sides.

      i find some things are better in android some better in linux and ideally you would be able to run both concurrently. Being able

    • Why port apps to android that already work in other supported Linux operating systems? Android uses a Linux kernel so why not virtualised instance of android within a full Linux OS instead? Just put a dalvik VM and whatnot in there and run android apps within a window side by side with LibreOffice or other native apps?

      Then you don't need to reboot or have dual mode operation.

    • Ubuntu, at lest, seems to thing they can get their OS running on the Android's kernel. This could mean that no rebooting is necessary to switch between Android and Ubuntu.

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      The upcoming version of the Qt framework has Android compatibility. I expect this will be soon followed by the port of many KDE applications to Android, especially given that it's got to be much easier than porting them to Windows [kde.org].

  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:31PM (#45097283)
    I'm looking for a 4" device that runs android and is not a phone, and has current hardware. Nobody seems to be making such a device unfortunately. Samsung used to have the Galaxy Player but not anymore. I specifically don't want a phone.
    • by csumpi (2258986) on Friday October 11, 2013 @12:11AM (#45098533)
      Why not just get a second hand Android phone and throw the sim card away?
  • In 2009, Jane Silber became the CEO of Canonical in 2009. Canonical makes Ubuntu.

    Jane Silber's previous job was at that military contractor, namely the C4 Division of General Dynamics. It turns out that at the C4 Systems division is all about using computers for spying.

    From their website: "General Dynamics C4 Systems is a trusted leader in the development of intelligence and information gathering systems for national defense and homeland security. These systems are designed to receive, process, exploit

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @08:37PM (#45097663)

    if they ship for $249 as spec'd I buy one

  • by viewtouch (1479) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @08:41PM (#45097695) Homepage Journal

    The normal minimum price for a ViewTouch point of sale system is about $3,000 plus $1,000 a year for unlimited support, training and other services. The offer of ViewTouch on the new PengPod cuts $2,500 from that price and $600 a year for support, training and other services.

  • PengPod Owner (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stardo (465325) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @08:52PM (#45097733) Homepage

    I own the PengPod 700 and I contributed to this project for the 1040 for an upgrade. Here are some comments I have:

    First, the PengPod 700 is great for what I need it for - which is mainly a mobile tablet that boots Linux for taking notes in Vim. I would do the same with a Rapsberry Pi, some USB display, and a battery, but it is all there in one package with the PengPod 700. It fits just fine in a case with a mobile keyboard. Some downsides to the original design: low processor speed + RAM - starting Firefox takes some time, but it still works. I feel like USB in Linux without autologin is a single point of failure - and it has been reported that the connector does suffer. It also doesn't have access to the backlight PWM/GPIO out of the box - so no brightness control, which directly affects battery life, which isn't that great. For what I use it for (taking notes at meetings or on the go), the issues aren't too bad. At $100ish for a Linux tablet, you can't go wrong if you set your expectations right.

    Now, I want the 1040 because the specs are amazing for that pricepoint, especially with Linux. I would up my usage of it to playing some light games, spreadsheet, general web browsing - it would really be something that I wouldn't feel bad using from the couch or pulling out at a conference. I still would prefer multiple USB ports, but most tablets don't even have one.

    I really wanted an Ubuntu Edge, but didn't really need to replace my current smartphone and honestly I could see myself using the 1040 a lot more. I probably still won't be doing heavy development on it or running WINE (both due to ARM), but I can't really find much that is cheaper from a mobile perspective with the full package running Linux.

    • by csumpi (2258986)

      tablet that boots Linux for taking notes in Vim

      vi sans keyboard? how on earth does that work? and if you tell me that you also lug an external keyboard around with it, then sorry, i just don't get it.

      • by Stardo (465325)

        No - Linux sans keyboard at the moment isn't doable. I have a case the PengPod sits in (see Amazon - search Tablet Keyboard Case). The original PengPod does not support Bluetooth - which is fine because the tablet keyboard cases are like $10. It doesn't fit in my pocket but it is still easy to carry. There is a little cord that plugs into the USB. That is what I meant by single point of failure - if the USB goes out my tablet is effectively bricked because I can't log in.

        I find I don't need a mouse mos

        • If you're worried about the USB failing and leaving you locked out you should probably set up openssh.

          • by Stardo (465325)

            I thought about it. I don't enable Wifi by default to save on battery and there is no built-in ethernet, only through the USB (which has the same problem as a keyboard). My best shot would be enabling Wifi at startup then disabling it with a login script, if I were concerned enough about it. If it had 2 USB ports I probably wouldn't even think twice about it.

    • >>I would do the same with a Rapsberry Pi, some USB display, and a battery,

      LOL!

  • by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:10PM (#45097787)
    Now you can be disappointed with *all* the open source software support for ARM systems simply by rebooting!
  • I'm on the project so if you have any questions ask away and I'll try and answer.
    • I have two questions, and I will ask one per post, as is customary for Slashdot interviews. The first: Android runs on a kernel that's Linux with a few modifications. Ubuntu also runs on Linux. Is there a possibility of rebootless switching between Android and Ubuntu by running Ubuntu in a chroot? Canonical seems to think so [ubuntu.com].
      • Yes, it should be possible but I'm not sure what improvement Ubuntu has now for this method. I used to mess around with this on some of the early Android tablets and its actually what got me interested in booting just Linux on the devices to improve performance. It was fairly easy to setup a chroot on these systems but you ahd to do something goody like vnc into it, which was very, very slow. I scanned that page and it also sounds like a precursor to Ubuntu Touch but I didn't see any technical links to fi
    • Will it run the Crunchyroll appat reasonable speed?

    • Is it just a finger-grade touchscreen? Or can I get the kind of precision needed for serious artwork? I'm thinking of a Wacom screen with a stylus here.

      • I had used it with a stylus under GIMP. It works but I'm not prepared to say its art ready. I've got a bottom of the line capactive stylus, with it I get disconnects when drawing a long enough line and its got a fairly large point. Might work well with a better stylus though.
        • Capacitive touch screens tend not to have the precision I'm looking for. But I gather they are a lot cheaper than the more responsive Wacom tablets.

          There are a few laptops that have Wacom-grade screens (Lenovo sells a few, and they fold up so they can be used as a tablet, but they're also heavy-duty beasts and rather heavy. They're really designed as heavy, large-battery laptop systems that happen to fold ... although they can, technically, act as tablets, their weight makes them not really practical in

          • And those Lenovo machines have power-hungry intel processors, as far aas I know, so they need the heavy batteries.

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