2012-07-23

My n900 is starting to get a bit dated, the camera doesn't work like it used to, the web browser hasn't been updated in a few years, and the processors isn't quit as powerful as I'd like. Therefore, I've decided that it is time to look for a replacement.

There are a few things that the replacement will need:

  1. A GNU+Linux operating system (preferably one with a decent package manager)
  2. A camera for taking pictures and video
  3. Audio out, so I can play music in my car
  4. A terminal emulator, I need command line access
  5. (bonus) Video out

Oh yea, the replacement will need to fit in my pocket.

After scouring the interwebs for a possible replacement, I stumbled upon the Archos 43, a 4.3 inch tablet running Android. Android? What about GNU+LInux? Good question.

The Archos site has a page about using the device as a pocket computer and in nice big bold letters it says Dual boot between Linux Android™ and Linux Ångström for extra freedom of use. Dual boot with a GNU+Linux distro? don't mind if I do! .... and I placed my order. Actually, the plan was to only boot the device into Linux and skip that Android crap.

Eagerly I awaited the arrival of the device, and this is where things get interesting...

Instead of sending me one device, three tablets were sent to me; in separate boxes. When I received 3 different email notifications that my package had shipped, I immediately emailed Archos Support to determine what was happening. They never responded. This was the first red flag.

Eventually, the devices arrived and I unboxed one that I was planning on keeping. Within the box was the tablet, a case for the tablet, a USB cable for charging and data transfer, and a user's manual. After plugging in the device to charge the battery, I started reading the manual to figure out how to boot the device into Linux. One of the first things that I read was that the tablet can be used while charging, so I turned it on in the hopes that I would see a boot menu allowing me to boot into Linux.

Unfortunately, there was no such menu and there was absolutely nothing in the user's manual about booting into Linux. On a side note, the manual does say that an LED will display the charging state of the device and this is true, until the device is turned off. Either the device does not charge when it is turned off, or the charging LED doesn't activate when the device is turned off. Regardless or which is correct, to me this is a design problem.

Since there was nothing in the user's manual regarding dual boot, I had to contact support. Archos has a decent online chat support, and that may be the best thing I have to say about the company. The support agent informed me that I would need to pay a 15% restocking fee for the two extra tablets that Archos sent me by accident. Seriously, they asked me to pay for their mistake. No thanks. Now it gets even worse.... In regards to the dual boot, I was informed that in order to get the tablet that is advertised as dual bootable to actually dual boot, I would need to install a custom firmware and void the warranty of the device. It's a damn shame that on the page that advertises the dual boot capabilities of the tablet that there isn't some warning that doing so will void the warranty. There is also no link to the page where one can download the dual boot firmware. In fact, there is nothing in the Archos FAQ about dual boot, and there is nothing in the documentation about dual boot.

Since the only way to use Linux on the device requires voiding the warranty, I decided to return the Archos 43. It should be known that I have no problem voiding warranties, I do it all the time. However, I purchased the tablet specifically because it was advertised as being dual boot with Linux and yet the tablet did not ship with Linux,. and therefor I could not, in all honesty, keep the device and give my support to Archos.

Shame on you Archos.

If anyone knows of a Linux device capable of replacing my beloved n900, please let me know.

Rock on, and keep shit sweet

Comments
2012-07-23 Thomas Jollans:
I know you're not going to do it, but you could get an Android device (that's the Linux requirement for you), install a terminal emulator, and bolt on a few GNU tools. (Which would make it GNU+Android+Linux)

Yes, I know this is not what you're looking for.
2012-07-23 Jake Roberts:
Welcome to my world. Android sounds like Linux in your pocket, until you get one. Currently, the closest thing to what you want might a Android gadget with Ubuntu for Android. http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android Basically you run the image in a loop and access it via VNC. It's not great, but it's better than nothing.
2012-07-23 Cyber Killer:
Wait for something from Jolla Mobile. They promise to deliver in the next few moths, your n900 should live that long easily and I have a hunch that it'll be worth waiting.
2012-07-23 jezra:
The problem with waiting for Jolla, is that I have no idea what sort of devices they are going to produce. The chances are very high that they will only produce a mobile phone without a physical keyboard, and if I'm going to pay upward of 3-400 dollars for a pocket computer, it better have a real keyboard.
2012-07-24 Cyber Killer:
I'd say the chances are high that it's going to have a physical keyboard. Those are the n900 & n950 guys. I'd even be willing to bet my beard that the first thing they're gonna put out is going to be targeted at the geeks & devs.
2012-07-27 Alison Chaiken:
The Vivaldi must be the tablet you're looking for.
2012-07-27 Thomas:
Sad to hear you had problems with that. Although I have to say that it should have been fairly easy to find the openAOS project and our efforts to provide exactly the experience you were asking for.
Also Archos has _never_ refused warranty for devices that had SDE installed. (unless ofc you go and wipe the boot loader and turn it into a brick, that would be abuse of warranty)
So if you can emotionally still accept the device, I'd be happy to help you. Contact me e.g on IRC #openpma (freenode)
2012-07-27 jezra:
Alison, the vivaldi probably won't fit in my pocket.
2012-07-27 jezra:
Thomas, while the openAOS project may be in line with my desired end result, using a third party solution to get a device to do what it is advertised to do is not what I am looking for.
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