Long Range planning for a Notebook/Convertible-Tablet PC

As a ‘test’, I installed a 32-bit openSUSE-11.4 KDE under Virtual Box (running on a windows7 session) earlier today (on my Dell Studio 1537 laptop w/4GB RAM and an AMD Radeon HD3450 graphics). Normally I would ‘cringe’ at this sort of installation (as I believe in DIRECT Linux installs with the hardware), but I had some logic for doing this in this case, which I will subsequently explain.

First there was an interesting surprise here. When I boot the openSUSE-11.4 KDE direct (from liveCD) on this laptop, it freezes without the nomodeset boot code. Its interesting to see that openSUSE-11.4 in a virtual session (under Windows7) does not have this problem, as the Virtual Box code looks after the graphics.

I was pleased that with 32-bit openSUSE-11.4 KDE (running in Virtual Box) that the mouse integration, network, graphics, and sound all worked fine in this virtual session. While there is a definite performance HIT running Linux this way, this was more for testing than to use operationally. So you ask, what sort of test ?

… well, both my wife and I are thinking of purchasing this Christmas 2011 (for my wife) and the following Christmas 2012 (for me) a new notebook which will be a notebook/convertible tablet PC (ie have a swivel screen and a proper keyboard). The state of Linux support for those type Notebooks now is a bit problematic based on my initial searching, so it occurred to me that an option would be to purchase such a PC with windows7 and then install Linux in a virtual box session. Of course for this very 1st test (installing openSUSE-11.4 in Virtual Box on Windows7), I am assuming the Windows7 ultimate on my Dell will be representative of the Windows operating system version on any new Notebook / convertible-tablet PC, and that may not be the case.

The idea would be we could have a Notebook/converter-tablet that runs both Linux and Windows7, and not be stressed too much over a failure to have proper Linux support for all the hardware as Virtual Box should (hopefully) handle most of that. Of course, one would need to Notebook/convertible-tablet with a VERY fast CPU, and that would limit the market. While fast CPU’s are not as common in Notebook/Convertible Tablets today, I’m I’m pretty optimistic given the trend toward faster CPUs that we will see faster CPUs in the future. Also, with from 0.5 to 1.5 years to go before purchase, there is room for improvement in Linux support.

The BIG question for me is how much of the ‘multi-touch screen’ functionality could be captured by VirtualBox and passed Linux and my guess is not much … But that’s not so important, as long as the ‘pen’ will function as a mouse for what I have in mind.

Some Notebook/convertible-tablets I looked at (but we probably would not purchase any of these as they are all top end expensive units) included:

[li]Lenovo X201 Tablet (12” screen) – gets rave reviews[/li][li]Lenovo X220 Tablet (12.5” screen) – very new (possibly not yet on the street) but looks amazing in terms of power/capability [I probably can NOT afford][/li][li]HP Elite Book 2740p (12.1” screen) – gets rave reviews[/li][li]Fujitsu Lifebook T901 (13.3” screen) – too big and too heavy for me[/li][li]Fujitsu Lifebook T730 (12.1” screen) – an old notebook – its been around the block[/li][li]Dell Latitude XT2 Touch (12.1” screen) – an old notebook – its been around the block[/li][li]Dell Latitude XT3 Touch (13” screen) – probably too big and heavy for me, it may not yet be on the street[/li][li]Dell Inspiron Duo (10.1” screen) – a neat notebook, but CPU is too slow for my wishes[/li][li]Toshiba Portege M7280 (12.1” screen) – simply far too fat and heavy for me.[/li][/ul]
I note Linux has been installed on the Lenovo X201 and HP Elite Book 2740p by some users. I also watched a youtube video of a Ubuntu user who installed Ubuntu on the Dell Inspiron Duo. In all cases not all hardware was functioning properly, and I can’t tell if that was the Linux users lack of knowledge or simply a true case of the Linux support lacking.

Typically its the Intel Integrated Graphics that gives the most heartburn to Linux users with those PCs, and my hope is that in the next 0.5 to 1.5 years, we will see improvements in the Intel graphic driver.

Also, I noted when researching this, a list of tablet applications for Linux here (toward the bottom of the page): TuxMobil: Tablet PCs, Pen PCs and Convertibles with Linux

Just a note that there is a multi-touch thread here on our forum Multitouch? and also a mailing list thread: [openFATE 310758] Multitouch input layer from X.Org Server 1.10 for open](http://lists.suse.com/opensuse-features/2011-01/msg00065.html) which references an openFate submission: https://features.opensuse.org/310758. If one wants multitouch in openSUSE, please be certain to vote for this.

Note - one can log in to openFate with their openSUSE username and password.