PengPod’s Linux-friendly tablets now shipping (to mixed reviews)

PengPod is now shipping its first tablets to customers. These are 7 and 10 inch tablets that can run both Google Android and Linux.

When you first turn on a PengPod 700 or PengPod 1000 tablet, it will boot into Google Android 4.0, but there’s also an 8GB microSD card in the box which has a Linux-based operating system on it. Just pop the microSD card into the tablet and reboot it and you’ll have a Linux tablet.

PengPod

Developer Neal Peacock raised over $70,000 during a fundraising campaign for the project last year, and while he missed the estimated January ship date for the first devices, he came pretty close.

The first PengPod devices started shipping last week, and customers are starting to receive their tablets. But some folks are less than thrilled.

James Dinsmore says the PengPod 7 inch tablet works reasonably well when running Android, but the Linaro-based Linux environment is much clunkier. He reports the touchscreen and on-screen keyboard are clunky and difficult to use.

Some early customers also had problems getting WiFi to work — but Peacock has posted an updated driver that should fix the problem.

Meanwhile some folks report they’re having issues booting or shutting down Linux, among other problems.

So here’s the thing about the PengPod tablets: they’re running software that’s still under development. In other words, if you’re looking for a user experience that rivals an Asus Transformer Pad or Apple iPad, you should probably look elsewhere.

They also have relatively slow processors — Peacock chose the Allwinner A10 chipset not because it’s bleeding edge, but because it’s cheap and there was already a level of community support for running Linux on the platform.

It’s an interesting project, but it’s probably best suited for Linux enthusiasts and hobbyists at this point.

The same may be true of the upcoming Vivaldi tablet with KDE Plamsa Active software — but since the team behind the Vivaldi is now designing the hardware from the ground up to support open source GNU/Linux software, I suspect the out-of-the-box user experience could be a little better on that tablet if and when it ships this summer.

Until then, you can order a PengPod 700 or PengPod 1000 tablet, a PengStick stick-sized mini-computer, or accessories such as microSD cards with bootable Linux images from the PengPod shop.

Or you can just live vicariously and check out an unboxing video from Films By Kris:

  • David

    I’d would def. like to see more reviews on this to formulate a plan to purchase or not. I love linux, but dont want to spend money on something that has issue functioning.

  • ddevine

    There’s no X support for the GPU (Mali) on the A10 platform yet, so of course Linux is going to be clunky. The open source driver development in the ARM space does seem to be accelerating nicely though.

  • fractobot

    I bought the 7″ Linux version through Indiegogo
    that boots Linaro Linux (which is an ARM derivative
    of Ubuntu) from internal flash.
    It has been so far stunning journey.

    There is nothing in the tablet
    world to compare it with.

    1. I’ve run it for hours compiling Gambas3
    and its barely warm. The reason I find out is that
    it clocks down when idle and ramps up speed when CPU
    is busy. No wasting of power here then. Since
    the entire OS and BIOS like functions are under the
    control of Linux, everything about power management
    is 100% beautiful.

    2. So I get Gambas3 to compile by downloading
    everything flawlessly through WiFi.
    (A bit complicated – follow the instructions
    at gambas web site. If it reports missing libraries,
    then install those. If it reports problems with GLUT,
    then remove lib-mesa2 and compile again.)
    When it compiles you got now a tool more powerful
    than Visual Basic because you got your normal visual IDE,
    a fast execution environment, and it connect into the thousands
    of open source programs to control it, feed data into them,
    or take data from them for analysis.

    3. Then I connected my Startech USB ethernet interface.
    It just ran – no fuss – no mess.
    So now I got WiFi and I got physical internet.

    4. I installed Apache after but
    didn’t realize how well it runs.
    I loaded big html files with lots of big
    images and lots of data. It seems it was quicker
    to load from the Pengpod through local LAN than it was
    to load it from a web server hosting company
    with 70Mbit download link.
    Pengpods are fast enough to be ARM microservers
    on their own. I had ‘top’ running in a bash
    terminal when I accessed
    the apache. It hardly blinked!!

    5. Unlike any competing tablets out there, the productivity
    of Pengpod Desktop Linux tablets is just out of this world.
    Particularly of if used with a real desktop PC and ssh.
    Being able to use ssh and ssh -X to run applications on
    your local desktop whilst actually running the application
    on the tablet adds the third dimension to flat top
    tablet computing!! :-)
    Something with no one can compete with.
    Its a big mistake whoever talked themselves into
    ignoring 1GHz Linux on ARM tablet, and ssh / ssh -X.

    Now I got myself a full ssh server + headless server + tablet
    that is also a web server!!

    6. I can use a proper pdf reader and read datasheets
    manuals with same ease as desktops now!!

    7. I got proper desktop firefox browser and not these crippled
    dopey mobile browsers and I can do everything as on
    real desktop – such as for example logging into
    remote security cameras to view and control it.

    8. The spreadsheets and wordprocessors are real as
    real is on the desktop. With ssh -X, the work can
    continue when you get home on your real desktop.
    This a lot better than of fumbling around with grubby fingers
    on a 7″ tablet screen whe you don’t have to.

    9. The UI has been improved over previous desktop Linux
    implementation.
    Pressing the volume control brings up a scaleable the touch
    screen keyboard nicely.
    Being resizable it is an immense help.
    Touching and then holding and then dragging scroll bars work
    intuitively. Again a big step up.

    10. I tried barcode reader and it worked.
    So now I can walk with this table, run a desktop Linux
    stock taking program and use the barcode reader properly
    as if I was carrying a desktop around with me.

    11. Many other SB gadgets also seems to work and if you have
    trouble with some device driver, just message the guys
    and are ready to add some more drivers to the kernel.
    A thing to watch out for is attempting to drive
    too many devices through a small USB link. One or more
    devices can drop out. But that happens with all products
    of this type.

    12. With gambas3 compiled and running and ssh working,
    I set up a connection share with nautilus so I can
    drag and drop files from desktop to Pengpod.
    I can develop GUI applications on the desktop and drop
    the compiled programs into tablet with drag and drop.
    Click and run on the tablet and it works VERY FAST
    for a developer environment to create GUI applications.
    I made a simple application with big buttons like you would
    see in a Kiosk computer and it just worked. I installed
    espeak, and sure enough, when I press the buttons, I can
    actually make the tablet talk back!!!

    In all, no one ever had this kind of computing power
    for $110 in such a small compact form factor.
    If that isn’t stunning experience with a tablet,
    then I don’t know what is! :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cláudio-Luís-Marques-Sampaio/696662611 Cláudio Luís Marques Sampaio

      Wow… That seems really amazing. I use Ubuntu on my Nexus7 tablet but it is barely useable. Yours seems much better. But what about hardware acceleration? I have it on my Nexus7 but it is of no use, almost no software for GNU/Linux is compiled with OpenGL-ES bindings, only regular OpenGL.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/iuriemalai Iurie Malai

    The tablet has a speaker, but nothing is said about the microphone. Is there one?