Archive for July, 2010

The JooJoo Tablet Part I: Software customisation

On Tuesday, I received my JooJoo tablet. I’ve been following the JooJoo since before the manufacturers gave the finger to TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington. The tablet itself has been given mixed reviews, but what everyone agrees on (including me) is that the software is not as polished as it should be. (Not being able to delete bookmaks? Really?)

The JooJoo

In light of the poor reception and uncertain future of the tablet (fewer than 100 units were pre-ordered, and I doubt if many more than a few thousand have been sold) many people are holding off buying for these very good reasons. What if the company folds? Who will update the software?

And here is where open hardware shines. Imagine the iPod without iTunes, or the iPhone without the App Store. What if there was a catastrophic failure at Apple? The devices would be useless, and would become very undesirable.  Not so with the open hardware of the JooJoo.

The JooJoo has standard PC hardware in: an Intel Atom processor, SATA SSD, VGA display etc. etc. This means that the software, and the company behind the software, doesn’t matter as much. If you want, you can install whatever operating system you want on it, and run whatever software you like. I’ll run through what I have done to turn a mediocre web tablet into a fantastic fully featured Linux machine. (that also browses the web!)

OK, so after trawling through the joojoo forum I decided that instead of a vanilla Ubuntu installation, I would go with jolicloud, an Ubuntu derivative with focus on cloud apps. I did this because the general feeling on the forum was that this was more compatible (wireless works out of the box, for example) and there were far more resources and discussion around it. After making a boot USB drive and using a hub to connect it, a keyboard and mouse to the JooJoo’s USB port (Another win for open hardware!) I was able to enter the boot menu by double-tapping the ON button (which switches the screen on during POST) and spamming F11 on my keyboard. After a by-the-numbers installation, and a reboot, I was presented with a full Jolicloud desktop, with sound and wifi working!

Only a few tweaks were left. Touchscreen, on-screen keyboard and hiding the mouse cursor. (My main resource for everything was this post)

I downloaded the touchscreen drivers (Kind of as described in this post, though the link for the drivers is now broken, I had to google for the files, which I found here) The touchscreen seemed mirrored vertically, but that was easily solved by using the built-in calibration tool.

I found the Florence touchscreen program works great, I added a shortcut to it in the menubar.  (No debian package, but it compiled cleanly with very few dependencies, see here for the apt-get command for them)

Hiding the mouse cursor – trivial you would think – was the most difficult to research. I eventually found a solution, and posted an answer to my own question on superuser.

The final tweak was to install chromeTouch, a nice extension that allows drag-to-scroll on any web page, while still allowing text to be selectable.

Stay tuned for part II, on how I turned a Moleskine portfolio into a perfect case for the JooJoo!


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