Toshiba AC100 Ubuntu Demo Video

Posted on 04 October 2010, Last updated on 04 October 2010 by

Open Office on AC100You might have caught my excited tweets and posts about getting Ubuntu running on the AC100 over the last few days and if so, you might be starting to realize how close these ‘smart’ books or ARM-based netbooks, effectively smartphones in a netbook-style case, are getting to the netbook experience. The overall experience is certainly not ready for the average customer but take this video as a demonstrator that 1) Processing power is significantly better with dual-core devices to the point where Web browsing is not slow 2) A productive experience is possible through Linux applications 3) that the AC100 is well positioned as a device for further hacks. MeeGo, Android 3.0, Chrome OS and other Linux builds included.  At 800gm for 4hrs productivity, Intel need to take note. I’m definitely looking forward to see if the same hacking process works on the Toshiba Folio 100 tablet.

Before you watch the video though, note that there are problems.

  • 512MB RAM Ubuntu 10.10 netbook build needs to be a lot slimmer for the AC10. 512MB might work if swap space was fast (not on the SD card.)
  • Battery life The AC100 is lasting 4 hours but should last 6 or more. A big part of the problem is the lack of screen brightness control it’s on 100%, all the time. Also, Linux is very uncontrolled when it comes to networking and disk access too and with 152 process running (gulp!) I doubt there’s a moment’s silence for the silicon inside the device. Take the iPad as a benchmark in this area because with a similar size screen and battery it’s getting 10hrs or more.
  • You can’t run a full Linux build from an SD card without disk access blocking from time to time.
  • No sound, video, 3D graphics support or WebCam at the moment as far as I can tell.
  • Installation requires flashing the BootROM of the AC100 A risky process
  • I’ve seen a few too many crashes.

For HOW-TO articles on how to do this, see the forums mentioned in this post.

Update: Toshiba have obviously taken notice of this work as they’ve allocated someone to take a closer look at it.

Again, this isn’t a solution that anyone could use on a day-to-day basis yet but I regard this as a seminal moment for ARM-based ‘netbooks’ because it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to efficiently run my desktop work processes (Web apps, blogging, image editing, twitter) on an ARM-based device. With the doors open now, I expect the AC100 to get picked up by quite a few hackers in the coming weeks and for progress to accelerate even faster. My testing continues but i’ll refrain from posting further articles on Carrypad unless anything significant happens.

12 Comments For This Post

  1. aftermath says:

    Are you going to investigate the EFIKA MX Smartbook? I hope so, especially now. Genesi is pretty cool, and they might even loan you one.

    It’s “only” cortex A8 and not the NVIDIA Tegra 2 platform, but it’s been made to do what you’re forcing this to do. I believe there’s an abstraction layer that makes OS level GPU support a little easier, plus it’s an old ATI z430 in there, which is one of the few embedded GPUs out there somewhat supported by open source drivers. I’m particularly interested your decision about evaluating the EFIKA MX because of your comment “it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to efficiently run my desktop work processes…on an ARM-based device.” People have already been doing these things on the EFIKA MX platform, and if nothing else, it would be interesting to see how your experiences with that platform and the AC100 would compare.

    Either way, what you’re doing with the AC100 and your publication of the results is very great stuff. We need more research, exploration, innovation, and creativity in technology, even if it comes from users. It’s also nice to see people use technology in ways that innovates something nontechnical: like freedom.

  2. Robin says:

    Is is possible to install Ubuntu in the flash memory (8GB) and not on SD card??? That should be the target. Or not?

  3. Robin says:

    Is it possible to upgrade RAM (replace with a 1 or 2GB module)?

  4. LeeN says:

    The nice thing about Linux, is that even though there are 152 processes running, the majority of those are likely sleeping and not taking any CPU time at all. I think the battery issue may be more to do with taking advantage of power saving features of the hardware, it may even save some power if it wasn’t being run off an SD card.

    I’m running Ubuntu on my Fujitsu u820 right now as it performs better than Vista but the one thing I do not like about it is that it isn’t officially supported so every time there is a kernel update it usually breaks everything.

    If Toshiba provided enough information or support to make this officially supported with Ubuntu I would buy the AC100 in a heartbeat!

    Out of curiosity, what is the image size?

  5. LeeN says:

    I’m guessing the image size is under 500 MiBs.

    Also forgot to say, great job Chippy!!!

  6. Liviu says:

    Hi Chippy,

    I am interested in this device as a PDF reader. Can you provide some details on the ergonomics of reading PDFs on this ? (Is android working fine with page up/down button, space to move to next page etc).

    Thanks !

  7. Speedyuk says:

    Hi Liviu, perhaps I can provide you some feedback on this functionality as I have invested in an AC100. The PDF reader that comes with the AC100 is the DataViz Documents to Go. It does not use/support page up/down button or space bar. It does support several Ctrl key combinations to achieve that functionality. Ctrl-n jumps to next page, Ctrl-p jumps back a page. Ctrl-w displays the whole page, Ctrl-i zooms in, Ctrl-o zooms out, Ctrl-g allows you to jump to a page number, Ctrl-f allows you to search for a word, Ctrl-r toggles views. I haven’t tried any other pdf reader, though there appear to be quite a few on the Android Market.

  8. Liviu says:

    Thanks !

    Did you find it usable overall ? It tempts me, but I would hate to buy it and then realize is not suited to my needs.

  9. Speedyuk says:

    Hi Liviu, It’s certainly usable as on ocassional reader, but I wouldn’t have thought it was the ideal form factor, it being effectivley limited to landscape format orientation. For book reading I would have thought the portrait option offered by a tablet may be better. For me a dedicated keyboard is more important.

  10. Liviu says:

    I also like the keyboard but I have big doubts on making android work on non touch devices. If they manage to install ubuntu or any other OS designed for laptops would be great (as far as I understood can be booted of a SD card for now).For the moment I am more attracted toward archos 101, but if they manage to have linux running on it I will buy it.
    As for reading, I read only PDFs that are anyway better read in landscape mode. Thanks again for the feedback !

  11. Speedyuk says:

    I may be fortunate that I haven’t already got familiar with Android on a touch device, but I don’t find it awkward just using the keyboard. Based on my bad experince with an Archos 605 I doubt I would ever go the Archos route again. With Flash 10.1 support in Android 2.2 I reckon this is going to be a great device. I just wish it had access to the Market.

  12. Frostybeard says:

    @Robin, it’s probably not possible to upgrade RAM on these ARM systems, because the RAM is built into the CPU itself. It might be possible to change the CPU with a 1GB version with the proper soldering equipment.

    I’d be pretty eager to get Linux running on this. One of the first things I did was go and try YouTube on this. YouTube simply didn’t work at all in the browsers. The HTML5 YouTube site also didn’t work – it said the browser didn’t recognize the codecs. There was some YouTube widget that was kind of able to play YouTube videos, but the quality of video playback , was terrible compared with a normal PC. Yet this netbook should be quite capable of handling YouTube video.

    I wonder if Android 2.2 will offer a complete internet experience finally for Android. Since the UI if this is quite customized I hope we aren’t left waiting for a long time for 2.2.

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