Any usable GUI for an x86 tabletPC?


I’ve purchased an Acer P3-171 tablet, and installed my favourite OpenSuSE 13.1 on it. After reading Linux Format magazine article about Linux distros on tablet PCs, I was sure I’ll get a system comparable, if not superior, to Windows 8. However, things turned out to be a bit disappointing.

First of all, I wasn’t even able to install SuSE with YaST installer, because for some reason the backlight switched off as soon as the installation process started. I could see the GUI if I looked really close and lit the screen with a flashlight, but it was still impossible to install the system. I had to buy a microHDMI cable and use external screen to install SuSE.

Then I tried to set up a decent virtual keyboard, but to no avail. GOK can’t switch layout, eekboard was downright broken, Florence didn’t work, Kvkbd and Xvkbd were unusable, etc. I still can’t type without an external hardware keyboard.

No multitouch, of course. This video made me sure there is no problem with it in Linux (especially considering that the video is 4 years old), but in both Gnome 3 and KDE multitouch does not work at all.

I had to install a Firefox addon to get kinetic scrolling. In all other windows the swipe gesture just selects the text.

There were lots of other frustrations, so I’m asking here: am I missing something? Maybe there is a proper distro for touchscreen devices like TabletPC, but I just overlooked it?

My favourite desktop, XFCE, works fine, but unfortunately it is completely unusable when you have nothing but a touchscreen.
KDE is rather handy, but it does not even have a ‘context menu on long tap’ feature as Gnome 3.
Gnome 3 is not as abysmal on tablet as it is on desktop, but it’s still far from what I call usable. Still, I could make myself to use it if it had a proper virtual keyboard with layout changing feature.
Plasma Active on x86 is only supported as Kubuntu Active distro, which comes only in i386 version.

Thank you in advance. Any advice will be highly appreciated.

Your hardware needs to be investigated (maybe there is a forum or other support for your specific tablet?)

The backlight issue in particular is a hardware issue, and as I’ve been finding lately is typically managed through WMI (Windows Management Interface). Is because of the popularity of Windows plus the stability and power of WMI. Accordingly, I’ve found that the mainstream Linux kernel has a WMI module nowadays, after asking around in another forum I’ve been told the module contains custom WMI functionality created by the Manufacturers themselves in a very ad hoc, disorganized manner… So for instance you won’t find the Vendors co-operating in creating a configuration common to all hardware plus custom scripts for Vendor-specific features… The configs can be repetitive and of course dependent on Vendor effort.

So, this doesn’t look like a problem that’s specific to Linux or any OS other than Windows and your Q likely can’t be answered well except by the hardware manufacturer.

As for myself, I have one of those recent hybrid laptops with touchscreen, so the Vendor (HP in my case) has wired up the F-keys to hardware control things like adjusting the display. But, I’ve even found bugs in how it’s implemented. If HP is making mistakes I imagine other Vendors would be no different and likely allocate less resources to getting things to work especially in a non-Windows environment.

As for “touch” support on my HP Envy 17, I’ve found that it seems to work mostly OK and not too different than when I run Windows, and that is without the special KDE “touch” packages… In fact, I have yet to find any way that Touch is enhanced with the packages so maybe my hardware implementation of Touch delivers all that is possible.


YaST>Software Management>Patterns>Tablet PC

If the Patterns tab is not visible, select it under View.

You will probably need to reboot to use it.

Thanks, but I know about the TabletPC pattern. It does nothing except installing a handful of packages (jarnal, xournal, xstroke, xvkbd, cellwriter and a couple of others).

These should then make the KDE Plasma Active utilities work in tablet format. Without them, Plasma Active will not work.

Because despite close attention I could not find any benefit from any of the Tablet utilities(on my hardware) and curious about “Plasma Active” I took a look at what “Plasma Active” is…

Based on the main project website
Plasma Active

It doesn’t look like there is much of anything at this time that’s intended to enhance Tablet… There seems to be only the virtual keyboard. Everything else looks to be intended to integrate much of the “moble OS” architecture into the traditional Desktop OS (and that’s interesting, too). For those who follow the differences between the Mobile OS and the traditional Desktop OS, there can be considerable differences but mainly provide functionalities that are common across diverse hardware platforms (but having little to do with the hardware itself).

Even the “Touch” Plasma Active apps don’t have anything to do with touchscreens, they seem to be named that way because it enhances “touching” others through enhanced contacts management integrated with various Web2.0 type apps.


My response was based on a review of tablet software in LinuxFormat; they said that Plasma Active only worked as intended with the Tablet Pattern installed. Plasma Active depends on swiping gestures.

There is a video of an earlier version of Plasma Active at Vivaldi tablet (aka Spark tablet) with KDE Plasma Active - Live demo - YouTube.